BUSINESS REPORT: Ohio Launches Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program

Rendering of FirstEnergy Transmission Control Center
Rendering of FirstEnergy Transmission Control Center

By Ed Felton
From the January/February 2013 issue

Ohio has initiated an employer-driven program is designed to provide direct financial assistance to train workers and improve the economic competitiveness of the Buckeye State’s employers.

The voucher program is designed to offset a portion of the employer’s costs to upgrade the skills of its incumbent workforce and will provide reimbursement to eligible employers for specific training costs accrued during training. The program’s funding will be used in conjunction with private contribution to fund skill-upgrade training. Eligible employers must demonstrate that by receiving funding assistance through the Voucher Program that their business will not only obtain a skilled workforce but will improve their company processes and competitiveness.

The program is first come, first served. The caps on the program funding will be $500,000 per eligible company and/or $4,000 per eligible employee, with a reimbursement rate of up to 50%; all training must begin and be completed between February 4, 2013 and June 30, 2013.

Only one application per employer will be accepted per program year. If an employer has multiple sites, those sites must work together to submit the one application. The company’s NAICS code will determine eligibility as to the ten targeted industries.


FirstEnergy Corp. has announced plans to construct a new state-of-the-art and environmentally friendly transmission control center in Akron, OH. The highly secure facility will be built at the company’s West Akron Complex, an existing 150-acre site that already houses an Ohio Edison service center, a FirstEnergy call center, and a large office building where several company subsidiaries are based.

While preliminary site preparation work is being done this fall, groundbreaking for the 70,000-square-foot facility is expected to occur in the spring of 2013, with planned completion of construction by the end of the year. The new “Akron Control Center,” as it will be known, is expected to cost approximately $45 million.

The new facility will replace the company’s existing Ohio Transmission Control Center located in Wadsworth, OH, which will be used as a back-up and training facility. Most of the 112 employees who currently work in Wadsworth will be transferred to Akron in stages as the new facility is completed.

FirstEnergy expects to submit this project to be considered for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. LEED is an internationally recognized third-party green building certification system that recognizes buildings that have met the highest possible green building standards and verifies a project’s level of environmental responsibility and ability to provide occupants with a healthy place to live and work.

The Akron Control Center is being designed by Akron, OH-based Braun & Steidl Architects. Fairlawn, Ohio-based Welty Building Company, which previously served as construction manager for FirstEnergy’s West Akron Campus, also will be construction manager for this project. In addition, GPD, of Akron, is providing electrical/mechanical engineering services and Thorson Baker & Associates, of Richfield, Ohio, is doing site development and structural engineering.

“The new Akron Control Center is designed to make our current high level of transmission service reliability even better,” said Charles E. Jones, Jr., senior vice president and president, FirstEnergy Utilities.