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TechCred helps Mahoning Valley firms

Program reimburses businesses for employees’ training

Staff photo / R. Michael Semple Mike Lyons, operations director at Starr Manufacturing in Vienna, stands next to pressure vessels made at the company for use in the gas and oil industry. Starr is participating in Ohio’s TechCred program, which allows workers to learn new skills and businesses build a stronger workforce, to help some of its employees become certified weld inspectors.

WARREN — The certification needed to be a specialized weld inspector is difficult to achieve and costly to attain, but it’s a necessary inspection when dealing with pressure vessels like the ones made at Starr Manufacturing.

Used in the gas and oil well industry, the vessels are under high amounts of pressure, making it vital the welds don’t fail. It’s required they be inspected for fitness, but no one at Starr has the certification to inspect the connections.

Instead, the Vienna company brings in an outside inspector. Doing so sometimes can stop production until the welds are certified OK.

“Depending on the size of the game and thickness of the material, that is all very, very technical and and a certified weld inspector is able to know what he or she is looking for to help make the call, is this good or bad … they are also able to understand the process needed to repair welds,” said Dale Foerster, Starr’s vice president. “It’s very, very technical and strictly enforced.”

The company is now taking advantage of Ohio’s TechCred workforce development initiative to get some employees the training they need to become certified weld inspectors.

Launched in October, TechCred’s goal is to help fill the void of in-demand skills by helping pay for workers to development new and better skills. Employers benefit by having an upskilled workforce that can adapt to and perform in increasingly technical fields.

“(TechCred) is a big endeavor, initiative on the state’s part to help train Ohio employees to keep employees in the state and to help them meed the needs that comapnies may have,” Foerster said.

Starr is among nine companies in Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties participating in the program’s first round of funding. The company applied for two credentials and is eligible to be reimbursed $4,000 toward the cost of the training.

The certified weld inspector was not on the state’s credential list until Starr spoke up and had it successfully added.

TechCred works like this: The program will reimburse up to $2,000 of the cost of training upon completion of a credential with one reimbursement available per employee in each funding round. Employers are eligible to receive up to $30,000 per funding cycle.

Employees must complete the training and employers must show proof of the credential in order to receive the reimbursement.

The state is now in its second funding cycle.

Kiraly Tool and Die Inc. on Youngstown’s North Side has worked with Trumbull Career and Technical Center for training and is heavily involved in apprenticeship programs to fill the void of in-demand skills, so when another outlet presented itself to upskill the shop’s workforce, the machine and tool-and-die shop eagerly jumped.

Participating will help the company keep pace with advancing technology and trends in manufacturing.

It applied for eight credentials and is eligible to be reimbursed $11,070 — a little more than half of what it will cost to get the training for the eight employees, said Kyle Kiraly, the company’s controller and tool designer.

Four of the credentials are related to machining, including one for an electrical discharge machine, a device that helps with some of the more difficult dies. The rest are for offline programming in computer aided machining.

The remaining four, Kiraly said, are for office staff for training in Excel and other programs.

“The major benefit to us is the opportunity cost of this,” he said. “If it was going to cost us $20,000, we may not opt to do all of it. We may opt to only do $10,000.”

The company employees 25 people, including two younger machinists hired before the holiday season.

“It (TechCred) is promoting business, promoting growth on the company side of things, and the individuals, they will all see growth in wages based on the new skill set,” Kiraly said. “We’ll hopefully turn that around and use this new skill set to generate new revenue for the company.”

Other companies in the Mahoning Valley awarded funding were Butech, Inc., Salem, one credential, $599; Columbiana Boiler Company, LLC, Columbiana, two credentials, $4,000; Hill International Trucks, East Liverpool, four credentials, $7,900; KTSDI LLC, New Middletown, five credentials, $10,000; Phantom Administrative, Youngstown, seven credentials, $3,175; VEC, Inc., Girard, two credentials, $4,000; and Venture Plastics Inc., Newton Falls, four credentials, $8,000.

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