Editor’s Note

This is the second in a three-part series looking at how Intel, the largest private commercial investment in Ohio’s history, will impact Knox County. Part I was Friday and Part III is Sunday.

MOUNT VERNON – Knox County’s colleges, universities and career centers are forming partnerships to apply for funding from Intel to develop a local workforce to operate its future semiconductor fabrication facilities in nearby Licking County. 

Intel announced in March it will provide $50 million to higher education in Ohio and an additional $50 million from Intel and the National Science Foundation, each, for education grants nationwide. 

Ahead of the funding application deadline May 31, Jobs Ohio took a few local education representatives April 11 and 12 to Chandler, Arizona, to visit the Intel site there and speak with the site’s education partners. Central Ohio Technical College, Licking County Career Center, Columbus State and The Ohio State University were part of the delegation. 

The delegation met with representatives from Arizona State University, Mesa Community College and East Valley Institute of Technology, which is similar to Ohio’s career centers, said COTC president John Berry, who went on the trip along with the COTC provost Eric Heiser.

“It reinforced some of the things that we knew, and it filled in some gaps that we didn’t know,” Berry said. 

The skill sets and degrees required for the types of jobs Intel expects to provide Ohio is one aspect Berry said he and others on the trip confirmed with Intel’s Arizona education partners. 

Intel plans to support 3,000 high-tech jobs, with 70% of those being technicians, 25% engineers and 5% support. 

The people filling the majority of these jobs — the technicians — are trained at an associate’s degree level in Arizona, Berry said. 

“If you’ve had previous military experience that equates to that, they would also look at that directly, or if you had a series of certificates that you had earned that could be stacked together that equated to that training, they would look to hire those individuals as well,” Berry explained.

“But that would be far fewer than those directly accessing an associate’s degree from a two-year institution.”

Students coming out of Knox County and surrounding counties’ two-year colleges and career centers with associate’s degrees will therefore be primed to fill such positions.  

“They expect us to be their major pipeline conduit,” Berry said of Intel.

Intel rendering

On the other hand, conversations with Arizona State officials clarified for Berry the expectations for Intel engineers. People coming out of Arizona State with a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or doctor of philosophy are often filling these roles, meaning students graduating from OSU, MVNU and other four-year plus institutions will be primed to fill roughly 25% of the high-tech jobs Intel plans to offer in Ohio. 

With this information in hand, Berry and other education leaders in Ohio are now figuring out how best to partner to apply for funding, which can specifically be used for at least one or more of the following: curriculum development, faculty training, laboratory equipment upgrades, novel research to advance semiconductor fabrication and student experiential opportunities.

COTC was the only Knox County institution included in the Jobs Ohio trip, which Berry said was because institutions were chosen based on geographic proximity to the Intel site. 

Intel/Knox County

However, other institutions in the county — Knox County Career Center, Knox Technical Center, Mount Vernon City Schools, Centerburg Local Schools, Mount Vernon Nazarene University and Kenyon College — have been meeting with the Knox County Area Development Foundation staff to also discuss funding possibilities, among other workforce development plans.

According to Intel’s funding proposal format, it is encouraging multiple institutions to partner in the creation of proposals, rather than apply separately, and to propose projects that are defined for up to three years. As a result, Knox County institutions such as COTC, will partner with others nearby. 

“We are trying to define those partnership opportunities critically in their own regional networks — so we would look at the Knox County Career Center, and then our four-year partner would be MVNU,” Berry said as an example. “And then we’re looking at a different one in Licking County, with C-tech, COTC and Ohio State Newark.”

Applications are due May 31, and responses from Intel are slated for June 30.

“We will have to have our solidified partnerships, our narrative outline, all of it done by the 15th of May in order to give us some time for those last-minute tweaks, those process reviews,” Berry said. “So, candidly, and I’ll be honest with you right now, we’re having very deliberative discussions with those partners.”

It is unclear at this time which of the five funding areas, or combination of the five areas, the local partnerships will focus on for proposals. Regarding COTC, Berry said it’s likely assistance with curriculum design and equipment/facilities will be a focus. 

In addition to possibly applying to and receiving funding from Intel, KCCC supt. Kathrine Greenich said at the end of March that KCCC had submitted applications for several career-tech programs — CTE26s — through the Ohio Department of Health.  

“We filed some applications this year, just to make sure that ‘Hey, we’ve got an engineering one out there,’” Greenwich said. “We’ve got some different programs already approved. You don’t have to start them necessarily, you just can’t start them if you don’t have them approved.”

All KCCC’s CTE26s are on a rotating renewal cycle, so it renewed cosmetology, transportation, and culinary arts this year, high school director Jeff Lavin said.

“We already have a manufacturing CTE26 in place that we’re utilizing for metal fab/welding and precision machining,” Ward said. “We also have a recently approved CTE26 for an engineering pathway.”

Similarly, MVNU president Henry Spaulding said his school’s existing engineering, computer science and mathematics programs would help prepare students for jobs with Intel. MVNU is prepared to adapt and add programming, as well as hire faculty to support programming, if needed, he said. 

Representatives from Kenyon College also spoke to plans beyond workforce development.

“While funding priorities are understandably focused on building the workforce right now, we are excited about the potential for exploring future partnerships, including internships and shared commitments to sustainability,” Kenyon’s news director David Hoyt stated. 

Intel’s latest funding announcement pertains to universities, community colleges and technical educators, so local public schools such Centerburg Local Schools, which is located about 12.5 miles from the Intel site, will not be directly involved in this application process. 

“If they do release something for public schools, we’ll definitely take a look,” Centerburg supt. Mike Hebenthal said. 

Mount Vernon City Schools supt. Bill Seder similarly said the latest funding announcement does not allow for direct participation of the public school system, to his knowledge.  

“We may have some indirect opportunities to connect,” Seder said, adding that some of Mount Vernon’s future programming plans, such as introducing engineering skills with Project Lead the Way at the middle school level, also align with preparing students for careers related to Intel. 

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