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State Unveils EV Workforce Strategy in ‘Voltage Valley’

A group of professionals at an industry event in Voltage Valley

CANFIELD, Ohio – The state of Ohio selected the heart of the “Voltage Valley” to unveil what it says is a comprehensive strategy to build the electrical vehicle workforce of tomorrow.

“The research identified Northeast Ohio as the most critical place where the most critical needs existed to build an EV workforce strategy,” Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said as he addressed guests at a press event at the Mahoning County Career & Technical Center on Tuesday.

Husted, the director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation, said the strategy calls for engaging with regional partners to drive career awareness, broaden the EV workforce talent pool and establish new scaling and training programs.

For Ohio, the need has never been greater, Husted said. The industry estimates 25,400 new jobs would be created in the EV sector across the state by 2030 – 12,700 in northeastern Ohio alone.

These jobs would include positions with EV manufacturers, battery development companies, EV charging manufacturing and installation firms and supply chain companies.

That level of growth, nearly a 30% increase over the current automotive manufacturing sector workforce, will require industrial and academic sectors to fully recalibrate learning pathways, training and skills education opportunities through state programs such as TechCred and the Individual Microcredential Assistance Program, or IMAP. The plan is to engage universities, community colleges, workforce development organizations, Ohio technical centers, career centers, apprenticeship training programs and others to focus on elevating skill sets required in the EV industry.

Husted identified nine EV-related projects in progress across the state that stand to create thousands of jobs, including Honda’s new $3.5 billion battery plant near Dayton, and Ultium Cells’ new battery cell manufacturing plant and Foxconn’s investment at the former General Motors Assembly plant in Lordstown.

“Those jobs have not been filled yet,” he said. “You cannot have an economic development strategy without a workforce development strategy.”

He emphasized the state wants to be on the forefront of training workers long before many of these major EV projects are completed.

“For every new battery-powered car, that’s one less gas-powered car that we’re going to be producing,” Husted said. “We have to transition that workforce to a new workforce.”

Ryan Augsburger, president of the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, said the manufacturing sector employs 650,000 people, or 18% of the labor force in the state. He noted it’s imperative that auto manufacturers make a seamless transition to EVs with the support of a well-skilled workforce.

“Much is at stake for Ohio in this transition,” he said. “Ohio is in a race against other states and countries to supply the talent for EVs and their supply chain,” Augsburger said. “The good news is that the skills needed to prepare our workforce to EVs is transferable to a host of different manufacturing readiness needs.”

Jessica Borza, executive director of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers’ Coalition, said her organization would implement the strategy in this region.

“We’ll be involved in community outreach and education about all of the great jobs that exist in the EV sector,” she said. The role will also include coordinating with local education partners to ensure training programs are in line with the skills and competencies required for positions in the EV industry.

“We know we’re going to need a multifaceted approach,” she said. “We also need to think about how to attract additional workers to the region.”

John Zehentbauer, superintendent of MCCTC, said the timing of the state’s initiative is perfect, since the career center is in the process of expanding its workforce development program. The school is currently building a $1.1 million energy training center at its campus that will open in the fall, which includes instruction on EV charging systems and other energy-related disciplines. MCCTC currently has a wait list for its various programs.

“This statewide rollout fits right into what we’re doing,” he said.

Pictured at top: From left are John Zehentbauer, superintendent of MCCTC; Jessica Borza, executive director of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition; Lt. Gov. Jon Husted; Geoff Lipnevicius, senior manager of workforce development at Lincoln Electric; and Ryan Augsburger, president of the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association.

Read the original article by Dan O’Brien for The Business Journal here.

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