The University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College is providing a new service through its Industrial Technology program. Rio is the first school among a group of partners to use a new mobile classroom unit, bringing technology education directly to the workforce at Kenworth in Chillicothe. The unit, Manufacturing on the Move, was purchased through the Regionally Aligned Priorities in Delivering Skills (RAPIDS) grant by a consortium of institutions of higher education to aid in workforce development and provide a resource for workers to earn a degree during their on-the-job training. To commemorate the occasion, Rio and Kenworth hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open the new unit. Rio President, Dr. Michelle Johnston said the unit will provide a convenient way to enhance economic competitiveness through quality education and training.
“This Rio and Kenworth partnership represents the first instructional use of the Manufacturing on the Move trailer. The execution of the training also allowed for convenient, high-quality onsite instruction with minimal interference to work schedules,” Johnston said. “We believe that the quality of education and training in a community is linked to its economic competitiveness. A quality of workforce is critical for serving existing and attracting new companies.”
The RAPIDS program awards grants to colleges, universities, occupational training centers and business partners to prepare trained workers for existing and emerging jobs while helping current employees advance their careers. The grant used to fund the Manufacturing on the Move unit was awarded to Rio and partner schools Shawnee State University, Ohio University Southern and Southern States Community College to aid in specific workforce development needs. The Ohio Department of Higher Education’s Assistant Deputy Chancellor for Economic Advancement, John Magill, said he believes the Manufacturing on the Move unit at Kenworth will set the standard for Ohio.
“This is the first of these units to be placed on a business property, and it’s going to be a model for the rest of the state,” Magill said. “This kind of program doesn’t work without the students who take advantage of these resources. We also look forward to the ability to provide college credit to the students. Not only does this meet the needs of Kenworth today, it helps the students of the schools learn to use the new machinery of tomorrow.”
The main goal of RAPIDS is to align state investments against regionally verified workforce demand. Rio and Kenworth’s joint Electrical Training Program started in fall 2016 and all student employees who started are still in the program. The new unit will provide these and future students easier access to balancing education with full-time employment. Half of the program’s students have already passed the pretest for maintenance, with one recently moving into maintenance. Students who complete the program will receive an Associate of Technical Studies in Industrial Automation and Maintenance degree from Rio. Chair for the Industrial Technology program, Keith Saunders has been a leader in the efforts to bring the unit to Kenworth and is one of the instructors onsite. He said RAPIDS provides opportunities for institutions and businesses to collaborate in expanding Ohio’s workforce.
“The RAPIDS program continues to be an invaluable asset to the students, institutions, businesses and workforce of Ohio,” Saunders said. “I am also thankful to our partners at Kenworth for selecting us as their partner-of-choice in this endeavor, and to our Rio community for the effort everyone has put in to making this program a success.”
Magill said he hopes to see more of these units being used by institutions throughout the state in the coming years.