A new mobile manufacturing lab housed at Marion Technical College will be on hand for a pair of job fairs at Triad High School in Champaign County in early May./Submitted
Photo: Submitted photo
Photo: Submitted photo

New mobile lab to train workers in manufacturing debuts in the area this week

A mobile manufacturing lab designed to train local workers and make students more aware of careers in the industry will make its Champaign County debut this week at a job fair at Triad High School.

Champaign County has been working with various partners, including Logan, Madison and Union Counties, to track down funding and gather support for the project over the last several years, said Marcia Bailey, executive director for the Champaign Economic Partnership. That agency acts as the economic development entity for Champaign County.

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The lab, which was delivered to Marion Technical College in Union County late last year, will be on display throughout much of the day at Triad during the job fair. The project’s primary goal is to provide a mobile training area for manufacturing firms throughout the region, Bailey said. In Champaign County, companies like KTH Parts Industries, Inc., Rittal and Bundy Baking Solutions contributed to the project, Bailey said.

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“It’s meant to be shared with those employers for incumbent worker training,” Bailey said.

But it can also be used to give local students hands-on experience to encourage them to take a closer look at careers in the industry.

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Technical colleges in Central Ohio submitted a proposal for a state grant several years ago to fund a portion of the project, said Robert Haas, chief strategy officer at MTC. The partners combined that grant and various other funding sources to pay for the lab.

One reason it took several years to get the lab running was manufacturers throughout the region were asked to provide input on the kinds of equipment the lab should offer. Instead of training equipment, it was clear the companies wanted real equipment typically used in a manufacturing environment, he said.

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The lab includes a CNC milling machine, six control units at which students can learn to program the mill, room for nine students and an instructor and enough power to allow some electrical training. The training can be customized to a business’ needs.

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“They tried to make it as broad as they could to cover different types of industries,” Bailey said. “The Hall company might not do robotic welding but they may have a need for CNC.”

Faculty from MTC will be able to provide the training, or companies with qualified staff can conduct the training on their own. Haas said the goal now is to make businesses more aware of the lab. He estimated it will be used for training about 80 percent of the time with the rest used to promote manufacturing careers for students.

“It’s meant to be an asset that can be used across the state, not just the Marion area,” Haas said.

The lab will be on hand at Triad most of the day on Tuesday. A job fair open to high school seniors in Champaign County will take place from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the high school. A second job fair, open to the general public, will take place from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the high school.

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