Those who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more, or who are working at below living-wage jobs, have a new opportunity because of a $5 million grant.
The grant, awarded to Northwest State Community College, WSOS Community Action (Wood, Sandusky, Ottawa, and Seneca counties) and The Center for Innovative Food Technology, Toledo, will create iSTAR, or Innovative Strategic Training Achieving Results.
The exact details of who is eligible for the program hasn’t been worked out, said Melissa Rupp, director of grant development and administration at NSCC.
“We just found out late Wednesday night (Feb. 22) that we got the grant. The contracts aren’t signed yet,” she said.
Soon, NSCC will place an iSTAR link on its website where people can gather more information.
The goal of the grant is to provide training to those who have been unemployed long-term in the skills needed to fill job openings in information technology fields such as database programming, said Rupp.
WSOS Community Action will help identify those who qualify for the program from Northwest Ohio, who would also make good candidates for iSTAR.
In addition, WSOS will manage non-academic support systems for students, such as career coaching.
Once WSOS has identified prospective iSTAR students, NSCC will put them through an assessment process, to ensure their skills and aptitudes align with the focus of the program.
The assessment program isn’t just a written test.
“There are several components to the process,” Rupp said.
Rupp said a previous background in information technology is not necessary.
The iSTAR training process starts with 16 weeks of instruction developed by Todd Hernandez, NSCC database application training coordinator.
“Todd was integral in identifying industry-recognized credentials and certifi cations that students will earn throughout the course. As a result, students will meet industry standards as soon as they complete the training,” Rupp said.
After finishing the 16- week course, students will be placed on a training contract with a local employer for 18 weeks of on-the-job training. The goal of that process is continued employment.
The Center for Innovative Food Technology will assist in placements for the food industry, and some students will move on to Ruralogic, an information-technology startup company based in Bryan.
NSCC will seek other businesses for partnerships.
Money to fund the grant comes from the U.S. Department of Labor H-1B visa program. Employers hiring foreign workers must pay a fee to the federal government before bringing a foreign worker into the United States.
Grants funded through the H-1B visa fees are intended to raise the technical skill level of American workers, and help businesses reduce the need for foreign workers.
A total of 43 grants were awarded in 28 states.
Rupp said the process of obtaining grants is extremely competitive.
“It’s like a job interview,” she said.
“You hope you meet all the target areas.”
NSCC met the targets because it offers database programming that meets the needs of the grant program.
The college is located in an area with high unemployment and an increasing number of H1-B visas being granted.
“We were in the sweet spot,” she said.