Clarion University, in partnership with regional entities, will receive a $1.1 million grant through Appalachian Regional Commission’s Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization. The goal of the grant is to improve the lack of educational and economic opportunities.
POWER is a congressionally funded initiative that targets federal resources to help communities and regions affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America's energy production and the coal economy. That includes northwestern Pennsylvania.
"The awarding of this competitive POWER grant speaks volumes about the importance of northwestern Pennsylvania to the Appalachian Regional Commission, and their confidence that Clarion University, working collaboratively and strategically with our partners, can make a direct impact on creating new workforce opportunities and, in turn, a brighter economic future for the region which we serve," said Clarion University President Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson.
The grant's objectives are:
• To prepare students for postsecondary education and the workforce;
• To develop and support career-specific education and skills training for students and workers;
• To identify new market opportunities and the growth of businesses, particularly in the advanced manufacturing and energy sectors.
The university, which will administer the grant, and its partners – Keystone Community Education Council, Oil City, which initiated the grant application, Venango Technology Center and Community College of Allegheny County – will combine resources to offer four new certificate programs based on regional industries' needs: heating and air conditioning technology; machine technician; mechatronics technology; and entrepreneurship. Credits that students earn in the certificate programs will be honored by Clarion University and may be used toward an associate degree in applied technology or allied health.
Additional partners are Northwest PA Oil & Gas HUB, Steel Valley Authority and the Regional Superintendents of Schools.
By the end of the three-year project period, 150 high school students will have obtained employment or enrolled in further education or training; 75 workers/trainees will have enhanced their current position or found new employment; 30 adult participants will have completed entrepreneurship training and started at least four new businesses; and businesses served will have been improved by having a more highly skilled workforce.
"Today's announcement continues an ongoing commitment for innovative economic development in Appalachia's coal-impacted communities," said ARC federal co-chair Tim Thomas. "Investing in key regional needs now will benefit the region and the rest of the country well into the future."