COTC exploring partnerships and revamping programs to take advantage of Intel project in Licking County
COSHOCTON — Many are looking for the $20 billion Intel plant being constructed in Jersey Township of Licking County to provide a huge economic boost to the region. However, one question asked by many pertains to the types of jobs offered and the skill set sought by the computer chip maker.
During a 50th anniversary celebration for Central Ohio Technical College in February in Coshocton, President John Berry said they were keenly interested in meeting with Intel management to find out what COTC can do for them and, in turn, how that can help their students. Berry went over details of a meeting with Intel at a recent press conference at Montgomery Hall of the Coshocton Campus. Similar sessions were held at the Newark, Mount Vernon and Pataskala campuses.
“There are lot of on-ramps for students at any and multiple points. There are different ways for them to be successful. There’s a myriad of opportunities coming with this process,” Berry said. “Growth and change are at our door, it’s a lot to live up to, but Central Ohio Technical College is ready, willing and able to meet that challenge.”
The Intel project is promising 3,000 new jobs with a related 7,000 construction jobs and 10,000 indirect jobs. Berry said they were told about 70% of hires will be at the associate degree level. Construction is to start later this year with chip production slated for 2025.
Eric Heiser, COTC provost, said that’s not as far off as it sounds and students need to get on the right education paths starting with the 2022 to 2023 school year. Even with most programs able to be completed in four semesters, Heiser said many of their students take up to six semesters to complete degrees because they work while taking classes part time.
“COTC is opened for business and what that means is we needed students yesterday,” Heiser said. “We’re already behind the eight ball and we have to get students in and started on this pathway as 2025 will be here before we know it.”
The greatest focus will be an industrial electrician certificate and associate degrees for electrical engineering technology and engineering technology. Heiser said what COTC offers now in engineering is about 90% of what Intel is looking for. He said the remainder, which they are looking to add, relates to wafer boards and experience working in a clean room.
“We know that’s replicable across the semiconductor industry. We know that degree is very well suited for any type of technician to work in the semiconductor field,” Heiser said. “That other 10% we need to fill, we’ve already begun the work on that and we can fill that in as students are already in the program.”
John Berry speaks at COTC press conference
COTC President John Berry talks about the college’s talks with Intel on what they’re looking for in workers and skills, leading to COTC putting focus on its electrician and engineering programs.
Leonard L. Hayhurst, Coshocton Tribune
What COTC can offer
The COVID-19 pandemic dealt a blow to COTC enrollment. In fall 2019, the Coshocton Campus had 181 students, compared to 54 students in fall 2021. Berry hopes working with Intel and offering degrees and certifications that will directly lead to jobs will increase enrollment numbers. However, those degrees and certificates won’t be just specific to Intel and should help people find jobs with a variety of companies.
Heiser said the revamped engineering programs have been honed over the last two years based on feedback from existing employers in the area. About 100 students are in the engineering programs now across all campuses and Heiser believes that will triple in the next few years.
About half the degree can be completed at the branch campuses with the rest at the Newark Campus because of the equipment there. Heiser said adding such equipment to the branches could be possible in the future.
“The vast majority of the hands-on, especially the high-tech skills with our high-end equipment, will be done in Newark. But, we purposefully made those degrees very obtainable, at least up to the halfway point, at each of our extended locations. Students don’t have to make that trip to Newark right away,” Heiser said.
This includes general education requirements and work ready skills, what used to be called soft skills. Berry said Intel is very big on work culture and wants workers with not just the right aptitude, but right attitude.
“You’re attitude is equally important in this process and I would say that’s industry wide. Everyone wants a team player, but Intel said ‘if we interview you and you don’t demonstrate that, we’ll wish you a nice day,'” Berry said. ”
Working with secondary schools
Heiser said they want to reach out to secondary students and adults who might be looking for a career change. That means meeting students where they are with a hybrid approach mixing online and in-person coursework.
“The idea is letting students see that there’s a place for them here regardless of where their current situation has them,” Heiser said.
COTC will be working on building relationships with local public school districts to develop a pipeline of future students, leading to future workers. Heiser said they want to reach students as early as fifth to sixth grade and have them start thinking about careers in the trades. It’s possible some could finish degrees through College Credit Plus by high school graduation at no cost.
“If we don’t start having those conversations at that point, a lot of times by high school those decisions have already been made,” Heiser said. “It’s trying to make that degree more obtainable to first generation students, who never had a family member attend college, who don’t see themselves as college material, who don’t think they have the money to get through college; there are avenues and ways to get through it.”
Heiser admits there is no way COTC could train all the workers required and that’s why a partnership with the Coshocton County Career Center is crucial. Superintendent Matt Colvin said even before the Intel announcement they were working with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1105 in Nashport to create a new electricians program that will start in fall 2023.
“Students will come out with a level two apprenticeship, which is huge if you know anything about electrical. Usually you have to start out at level one, but our kids will be at level two,” Colvin said. “The Intel people have already told us those kids will be able to get jobs right away and retire from those jobs.”
Colvin said about 48% of the county’s juniors attended the career center this school year, and the projection for next year is 54%. Of the 12 programs offered at the career center, most are near capacity or have a waiting list.
Colvin said they also have males in what was considered traditional female fields, like nursing, and females in traditional male fields, like metal fabrication. It speaks not only to students looking at trades more, but how fields are diversifying.
“That’s very exciting for us, especially as we tell people there’s no limit in what you can achieve or do,” Colvin said.
Leonard Hayhurst is a community content coordinator and general news reporter for the Coshocton Tribune with close to 15 years of local journalism experience and multiple awards from the Ohio Associated Press. He can be reached at 740-295-3417 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @llhayhurst.