New Training and Work Program Projected to Come to Price During BEAR Meeting


BEAR Press Release

A training program that will teach cut and sew and plastic molding skills to local adults as well as a program that will teach a myriad of technology to teenagers is projected to come to Price within the next three months, the Business Expansion and Retention general board was told on Sept. 13.

That message came from Nicholina Womak of FutureINDesign, a non-profit organization, that is being funded by a EDA grant to make it happen.

“After being laid off from my job in 2015, I started thinking about some of the under-served populations I had worked with and had this idea that with some help, we could create some pathways for them to succeed,” she said. “That was the birth of FutureINDesign.”

She said they wanted to create a plan in which students and adults could be put in a program that would teach them skills to work in high technology areas without them having to earn a complete college degree. She said in working with people on the west side of Salt Lake, there were a lot of talented people that were going completely unnoticed by the booming technology companies.

“But what these companies wanted, and wasn’t finding, was great employees with the right attitude, that would work hard,” she stated. “I started working with these companies and told them what we planned on doing with these students that we had contacted and the thing that stopped the company representatives in their tracks was that we were going to teach soft skills. That’s what they were excited about. They were interested. The more research I did, the more I realized the soft skills were important to these companies.”

The first cohort started with nine students and the program graduated five. Then, those students went on to a University of Utah boot camp on programming.

“They are all now employed in good paying jobs,” she said. “It was at that point I knew we were onto something.”

So, they started working more on their business model and the curriculum, with industry involved each step of the way.

Since then, there has been a second cohort that was very successful and now, they have 50 students enrolled in a two-year training program. They are learning back end and front end computer programming, graphic design and interface design. They are also working with a company that will give the students an A+ and Network + certification. Best of all, the students get this education for free, plus they get a job training stipend. Many of these students would go to work to help support their families at 14 or 15 years old, so the stipend helps keep them on track.

Then, she was introduced to Accelerant Business Systems, which proposed to her that just possibly she should look into taking a program to a rural area, and they helped her find a grant that could be written to do that.

“Most of my work had been around inner city populations,” she said. “I wondered if this was something rural America would want and need.”

When she came to Price and started to meet the community members and realized what a talent pool there was in Carbon County and what a great need there was especially for the young adults, she was convinced it was a good idea. So, she wrote the grant.

It was also at that point that she met Blacksmith International. An outdoor apparel company, most of their work had been exported but the owner really wanted to bring the jobs back to the United States. She asked him if he could provide live able wage jobs and he said yes. They told her they wanted to start with cut and sew training and manufacturing for the outdoor gear they producing. They also wanted to move toward injection molding as well to produce other products.

“I went to a conference and found that injection molding machines are high tech and that they fit right in with what many coal miners have done in running the equipment they have been using in mines for years,” she said.

Thus was formed a partnership to bring Blacksmith to Castle Country.

The grant that will provide all the training is $1.6 million, with $800,000 of it having to be a match from FutureINDesign. That match can come from everything from volunteers, in kind donations, service and cash.

The grant came in last year in September but negotiations on putting the training and business operation in the JC Penny building and partnering with Accelerant fell through. She said that at the first of the year, they just decided to move on.

So, Blacksmith and FutureINDesign decided to move forward on their own. First, they looked at the Kmart building but it was too large for the start up. They then looked at the Bealls building. They liked that and the company that owns them worked out a favorable lease.

They went back to the EDA and told them they found a building, and they wanted to move ahead. They had been introduced to the BEAR committee and there has been a wave of support from the organization.

“It has become a great partnership,” she said. “At one point, I thought about pulling out, but the support has been tremendous. The Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments (AOG) and BEAR were instrumental in helping us pull this off.”

Simply, the grant will provide the funding for the training and Blacksmith will employ those that have been trained.

The first goal is to bring $2.5 million of manufacturing back to the United States. She then showed the group a timeline for the process and said they are presently firming up their equipment purchases, which will come in October. A consulting group called the Black Swans, which helped Under Armor bring back a good deal of manufacturing to the United States in Maryland, will be in the area the end of September. Hiring will begin as they engage with the community. They are going to identify an outreach plan and start taking applications for training/employment in October and that will go through November. The training will begin in mid-November. Manufacturing and providing product for clients will begin by the end of December.

“I asked Blacksmith what they could do to make the project more sustainable,” she said. “We came up with a plan so that people’s ideas could be turned into reality.”

They are going to create an area in the building where people can make prototype products and to learn how to take them to market. Training will be available there on those kinds of things as well. She said she believes that there are a lot of things that people can bring to the table that can benefit the community.

The goal is to create and provide 200 jobs over the next nine years, but “I think that the numbers will increase much quicker than that,” she stated.

Beyond the training for manufacturing and the actual making of product, the building will also serve has a high tech training center for older teenagers. Based on the success they have had with the program in Salt Lake, she sees nothing but good coming from that. It will be a staged program and the first-year students will attend two days per week. The second year, it will require four days per week. In the second year, the students will get paid as they work on community projects that need technology and design to address community issues. She pointed out that high tech industry will be involved in the education of these students. They already have partnerships with Adobe, Microsoft and Executech.

“There is a very well thought out curriculum,” she said. “We just hired a program director who has a PhD in education, culture and society. At the end of the course, the students get to keep their laptops and best of all, the program is completely free.”

She said she is working with USU Eastern to align college credit with the program for certification. They already have an articulations agreement with Salt Lake Community College. Those who take the program now get stack able credentials. They get a certificate of proficiency and they also get the A+ Certification. The program contains a lot of soft skills development in it  as well. She said she also wants to work with the local high schools and has some ideas on concurrent enrollment.

She said recruitment for this program in the area will begin the end of September. Interviews for the local program will take place November through December. The goal is to start classes in January. She said she wants the schedule to line up with the new semester that schools in the area have. The first cohort will be limited to 25 students this coming year. Then, with first and second year students next year, the limit will be 50.

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