By Bob Mihalek

(6-29-21) Wright State University–Lake Campus will bolster its training programs in business and advanced manufacturing through a new Workforce Development Center.

Lake Campus plans to expand its existing Business Enterprise Center into the Workforce Development Center, adding about 10,000 square feet of additional space to the campus.

The larger Workforce Development Center will allow Lake Campus to expand its advanced manufacturing and robotics programs and offer more credentials, certificates and apprenticeship opportunities.

Dan Krane, Ph.D., interim dean of the Lake Campus

“The expansion is going to allow us to offer more not-for-credit training than we currently have capacity to offer and allow us to more efficiently and more effectively help with the training of our degree-seeking engineering students.”

The Workforce Development Center is expected to become fully operational in Fiscal Year 2024.

The expanded center and its additional programs will help the Lake Campus meet the workforce needs for skilled technical employees in West Central Ohio.

Advanced manufacturing makes up a substantial amount of the economy in Mercer, Auglaize, Darke and Shelby counties, which are at the core of the region that Lake Campus serves, Krane said. Growth in manufacturing industries in Mercer and Auglaize counties is projected to continue at an annual rate of 10% for at least the next 10 years.

The Workforce Development Center will include flexible lab space as well as instructional areas and space for mechanical, electrical, pneumatics and hydraulics, robotics, automation systems and 3D printing. In addition, the center will offer an area to showcase the products and processes of the campus’ sponsoring manufacturers.

Lake Campus Career Services will be integrated into the Workforce Development Center, providing networking opportunities with potential employers and helping students to connect to local employers for internships, co-ops and experiential learning opportunities.

The Business Enterprise Center provides comprehensive counseling and management training to new and existing businesses in the region by promoting and supporting entrepreneurs with experienced business consultants.

The center also provides advanced technical training in specialized areas of manufacturing with a blend of online classes and hands-on labs.

It offers two state-approved apprenticeships in tool and die and industrial maintenance in collaboration with local employers. Its SkillsTrac program is a comprehensive industrial maintenance training program for full-time adult workers. TechCred programs are offered in fundamental maintenance technology, industrial skills technology, and automation and system integration technology.

The expanded space will also allow the Lake Campus to fully utilize equipment for additive manufacturing and robotics training that it purchased with Ohio Department of Higher Education funds.

Engineering students at Lake Campus would also be able to train on the equipment. Lake Campus also anticipates that the new certificates offered by the Workforce Development Center will appeal to degree-seeking engineering students as they enter the job market.

The Workforce Development Center will host MakerSpace events in which corporate partners and individuals with a creative idea work with Lake Campus staff to create prototypes using the center’s state-of-the-art equipment.

The new center will complement the Tri-Star Career Compact, which provides science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs to students from nine area high schools. Lake Campus partners with the center, located across the street from the campus, in workforce development efforts.

The Workforce Development Center project is estimated to cost $3 million, half of which is funded by the State of Ohio capital budget. Lake Campus has received nearly $550,000 in donations from individuals, businesses and community organizations. The Wright State Board of Trustees approved $950,000 in university funds for the project.

Lake Campus also received an additional $500,000 in state capital funding to repurpose approximately 4,000 square feet in Trenary Hall into needed instructional space.