Ottawa Co. Skilled Trades Academy students attend open house

Press Staff Writer

        The Ottawa County Business Advisory Council (BAC) held an open house Sept. 17 for 11 high school seniors who were selected to participate in the second year of the Ottawa County Skilled Trades Academy (STA).
        Students and parents had the opportunity to check out the workshop area and program curriculum and meet with the instructor as well as members of the Business Advisory Council. However, this year, the Ottawa County Business Advisory Council ran into a big issue – COVID-19.
        When the virus swept through the country in March, school districts, county offices and area employers closed their doors. There were many concerns surrounding whether or not the 2020/2021 STA school year was going to take place. In July, STA instructor Jim Lippert announced he would be stepping down, offering to assist in any way to ensure the program is successful.
        “We met with the schools on Aug. 14 and walked away from that meeting with one understanding – this is absolutely going to happen,” said Ken Williams, BAC president.
        After weighing several options, Stephanie Kowal, Director of Job & Family Services, reached out to Northwest State Community College and explained the situation. Kowal, the Ottawa County Improvement Corporation (OCIC) and Northwest State Community College representatives met and began putting a plan in place.
        Educators and business representatives of the BAC embraced the new concept and made the decision to move forward with its implementation.
        Williams introduced Bill Hutchisson as this years’ STA instructor. Hutchisson is a certified MSSC CPT instructor and is an Advanced Manufacturing Training Coordinator for Custom Training Solutions, a Division of Northwest State Community College. He has spent the last six years in education, teaching both on the credit and contract sides (Industrial Electrical, Motors, Motor Controls, Robot Programming, Welding, Pipefitting, Fluid Power, Print Reading, Teams, Safety, Quality, and more).
        “We specialize in multi-craft, which is where students learn how to do a little bit of everything,” Hutchisson said. “The reason we do that is because we want to expose them to as much information as possible because they may find something they really like doing. And if you enjoy doing it, you’re going to enjoy making money doing it.”
        The 2020/2021 Ottawa County STA includes virtual classroom instruction from Northwest State Community College's Core Manufacturing & Logistics Skills (CMLS) Program curriculum and in-person hands-on lab activities in the designated workshop area that will prepare students to take the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) Certified Production Technician (CPT) exams and assessments.
        Local businesses will participate as “guest instructors” throughout the school year, including Materion Brush Inc., (production), Ohler & Holzhauer (HVAC/plumbing) and Port Clinton Manufacturing (precision machining), along with several others.
        The MSSC is a 501(c)3 non-profit, industry-led training, assessment and certification system focused on the core skills and knowledge needed by front-line technicians. The Certified Production Technician (CPT) Certification addresses the core technical competencies of higher skilled production technicians in all sectors of manufacturing. As a part of this program, students will be awarded MSSC CPT Certificates for each of the four Production Modules they successfully complete: Safety; Quality Practices & Measurement; Manufacturing Processes & Production and Maintenance Awareness.
        In addition to the MSSC CPT curriculum, students will have the opportunity to complete an OSHA 10-Hour course and receive an OSHA 10-Hour card (industry credential), along with entrepreneurship and ethics components. Additional credentials will also be offered to students throughout the year, such as forklift training and CPR certification.
        Colby Pendleton, a Senior at Woodmore High School, offered his thoughts about the program.
        “I’m excited to learn about everything this program has to offer, since high schools no longer teach classes like woodworking and welding. This is a big step toward learning and developing skills I will use in my career. I’d like to work more in the construction industry.”
        Asked about his first day of class, Pendelton said, “I really liked my first day, I have high hopes for this program.”
        Toni Pendleton, Colby’s mother, said, “He has been exposed to a lot of this already. This program was perfect because we knew he would get to dabble with several different skilled trades options while still exploring and eventually going on and doing a 2-year program at Terra or Owens.”
        The BAC initiative is funded through the support of the Ottawa County Community Foundation. For more information about the Ottawa County Skilled Trades Academy, visit


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