MARIETTA, OH— The Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor Randy Gardner recently announced recipients of the latest round of Regionally Aligned Priorities in Delivering Skills (RAPIDS) program funding. Washington State College of Ohio (WSCO) received $361,851 for the development of a new advanced manufacturing training unit that will provide an array of hands-on training and troubleshooting experiences in electronics, instrumentation, information technologies, and more.

Washington State College of Ohio, Belmont College, Eastern Gateway Community College, and Zane State College worked together to develop a proposal for a scalable, mobile Process Training Unit (PTU) designed for interdisciplinary program training and Internet of Things (IoT) systems integration. Housed on the Washington State College of Ohio campus, the PTU will be shared across the region at partner colleges and facilities to provide onsite incumbent worker training.

During the development of the grant proposal, WSCO received strategic input from process engineers at Solvay Specialty Polymers USA, LLC of Marietta and Kraton Polymers, LLC of Belpre. “Our goal with the RAPIDS proposal is to develop and integrate an advanced manufacturing curriculum that meets the current and future needs of workforce training in our region,” said WSCO President Dr. Vicky Wood.

The unit will allow for training on each section separately, based on program or industry. Students will then come together to integrate sections into one seamless system, allowing for cross-training that replicates a true workplace environment. “This holistic approach to training allows us to teach interdisciplinary teams on equipment that represents current industry standards, while giving us the ability to integrate technology that is driving advancements in IoT and Industry 4.0,” said Sarah Parker-Clever, vice president of academic affairs.

The RAPIDS funding complements WSCO’s work on the creation of Southeast Ohio’s first Robotics and Advanced Manufacturing Training Center, an initiative that started after the college received the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) POWER grant this past October.

“This RAPIDS funding enables us to purchase the equipment needed to maintain a state-of-the-art Advanced Manufacturing Center,” said Wood. “Our regional plan is about more than equipment. All four partner colleges will bring our faculty together to enhance curriculum for all levels of education, including secondary schools and career centers, to strengthen pathways for 21st-century employment opportunities.”

The ODHE RAPIDS program provides regional funding to support post-secondary institutions with the development of innovative projects, state-of-the-art equipment purchases, and other initiatives that improve the region and the state. Since 2015, WSCO has led initiatives in the Southeast Ohio region that have been awarded more than $3.9 million, distributed in four rounds of funding, by the ODHE. In that time, WSCO has received more than $1.2 million for the purchase of modern training equipment related to in-demand jobs.