Electric vehicles storm YSU 

The collaboration between Foxconn and YSU will offer jobs and work experience for students. Photo by Hannah Werle / Jambar Contributor

By Hannah Werle

Officials from Foxconn and Youngstown State University’s National Electric Vehicle Training and Innovation Center expect to have programs running by fall 2023.

Since announcing the partnership last October, Foxconn and YSU have progressed in the creation of a joint training center. The purpose is not only to create a functioning, local workforce and electric vehicle manufacturer but also to encourage growth in the Mahoning Valley. 

The partnership plans to establish its digital footprint within 60 days, which will include web resources and online training courses. YSU hopes to occupy the Foxconn building — site of the former General Motors Lordstown plant — come summer and have programs running there for the fall semester. 

Jennifer Oddo, vice president of the Division of Workforce Education and Innovation at YSU, said the center will be primarily a partnership between Foxconn and YSU, but other relevant organizations and community colleges may have an opportunity to work with or at the center. 

The project has involved groups like the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber, General Motors, Ultium Cells LLC and other constituents. Oddo said she hopes to involve additional electric vehicle related organizations and companies in the center.

“Our goal is to bring all academia together and to bring all workforce organizations together. We want everyone who is playing in this industry or has a place in the industry to be able to participate,” Oddo said.

One of the center’s purposes is to create an electric vehicle and workforce resource for the entire country.

“The number one thing we heard from our research is that industry, academia and these workforce organizations need a hub — a one-stop-shop where they can go to get access to standards around the industry to understand what’s happening and to see who is providing the training,” Oddo said.

A major component of planning for this goal is attracting interest from local and national businesses and workers.

“The only way we’re going to scale this workforce in America is by coming together and that’s going to be an important piece of what we do so we can help everybody,” Oddo said. “If Ultium in Tennessee or other partners in Tennessee or in California want to learn how to build an EV workforce, we want them to come to the YSU and Foxconn center.”

Contributors also want the project to attract businesses and workers to the Mahoning Valley. Guy Coviello, president of the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber, is working with both YSU and Foxconn to organize and support the development of the training center.

“We’re going to experience some substantial economic and job growth here and a lot of it is right at Foxconn,” said Coviello. “Having YSU in our community, having a four-year institution and a staff at YSU that is able to pivot to address trends in industry disruption and new technologies makes [the Youngstown-Warren area] a very attractive place.” 

Helen Lafferty, interim president of YSU, said projects like the training center will serve as motivation for population retention. 

“We know the statistics in our city and what’s happening — we’re losing people. We need to retain our students here. Projects like this give them both the opportunity and the motivation to stay,” Lafferty said.

The location of the training center was also a factor in creating accessibility and room for growth. While there’s a possibility of relocation or expansion, no plans have been announced yet.

“It’s a great location in terms of the facilities, size of the facility, the equipment there, but also the infrastructure nearby in terms of rail, in terms of the Ohio Turnpike, in terms of [Ohio Department of Transportation] highways,” Coviello said. “It’s an ideal situation and it is a place where we’re seeing some rapid economic growth.”