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Southern Campus awarded RAPIDS grant for environmental health, safety education


IRONTON, Ohio – Ohio University Southern has been awarded $394,959 as part of the Regionally Aligned Priorities in Delivering Skills (RAPIDS) grant. 

The Southern Campus was notified by the Ohio Department of Higher Education that the grant, made possible by the Non-Credit Job Training Capital Improvement Facilities Fund – Workforce Development Equipment and Facilities fund, will allow for the purchase of equipment and supplies for much-needed environmental health and safety training. 

The winning grant proposal began with a 2014 study, conducted by the Ohio Strategic Training Center (South Point, Ohio) and Regionomics (Columbus, Ohio), that analyzed occupational and workforce skill needs for Ohio University’s regional campuses. The study results, based on a review of existing market data and input from multiple industry leaders, determined that skilled labor in the environmental safety and security profession was in great demand throughout this region and that this demand was not currently being met. Further, the study determined the need for quality environmental safety and security professionals would grow substantially throughout the coming decade. 

The RAPIDS grant will enable Ohio University Southern to purchase a 35-foot goose-neck, multi-mission trailer and equip it with necessary training tools and equipment. It will serve as a portable multi-function hazardous material training facility which will be utilized across the region for both college credit and non-credit training programs. The Environmental/Industrial Mobile Learning Unit will be designed to deliver on-site training to both students of partner institutions and incumbent workers of industry partners. These partner institutions include Shawnee State University, University of Rio Grande, Rio Grande Community College, Southern State Community College and the Ohio Strategic Training Center. Additional funding was provided to Shawnee State University and Southern State Community College, which resulted in a total of $1 million for the Southeast region higher education partners.

Ohio University Southern Dean Nicole Pennington said, “The quality of education and training in a community is closely linked to its economic competitiveness and quality of life. Here in Southeastern Ohio there is a base to build skilled labor through regional needs of healthcare, logistics and manufacturing.”

She added, “One industry that cuts through all three of those needs is environmental health and safety training, which would be aided by this portable training lab.” The Southern Campus currently offers an associate’s degree in environmental technology as well as a certification in occupational health and safety. Pennington said, “The equipment that we will be able to purchase with this grant will be of great benefit to our students pursuing these opportunities. We are very pleased that the Ohio Department of Higher Education selected our proposal for funding.” 

Regional Higher Education Executive Dean Bill Willan said, “It can't be said often enough that the higher education institutions involved in this grant application have a remarkable ability to work together for the good of their students and their communities. The level of cooperation required of the four institutions was truly exceptional, so my congratulations are extended to each of the partners.

“I also wish to thank and to congratulate Dean Nicole Pennington and Assistant to the Executive Dean for Workforce Development, Dan Evans, for their sustained effort to partner with the Board of Regents and with our sister institutions in Southeastern Ohio to bring this grant application to fruition,” Willan added. 

For more information about the associate degree in environmental technology, visit https://www.ohio.edu/southern/academics/degrees/evt.cfm. To learn more about the occupational health and safety certificate, see https://www.ohio.edu/southern/academics/certificates.cfm.