Statler College receives funding to support WV manufacturers and train workforce through Mid Atlantic Regional Industrial Assessment Center of Excellence
The Industrial Assessment Center at West Virginia University’s Department of Industrial Management Systems Engineering within the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources has received funding from the Department of Energy to partner with Lehigh University to establish and support the Mid Atlantic Regional Industrial Assessment Center of Excellence.
Story by Brittany Furbee, Communications Specialist
Photos by Paige Nesbit, Director of Marketing
The DOE recently announced a new program that will aim to enhance, improve and expand the Industrial Assessment Center Program across the county. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will invest $550 million to expand the IAC Program and create regional centers of excellence and implement centers’ recommendations to support the Biden-Harris administration’s goals of creating pathways to high-quality jobs with the free and fair choice to join a union, reducing industrial emissions and enhancing American manufacturing competitiveness in a net-zero economy.
The DOE competitively selected five new Regional Centers of Excellence to enhance and expand the IAC Program with the support of $18.75 million in funding. The new centers will serve as regional hubs that collaborate and coordinate with government, nonprofit, labor and industry partners to train clean energy workers and support small- and medium-sized manufacturing facilities in their respective regions.
As part of the program, WVU IAC and Lehigh University received $3.75 million in funding that will be split evenly between the two entities over five years to support the development of the Mid Atlantic Regional IAC Center of Excellence, or MARICE.
MARICE will be housed at Lehigh University and will focus on identifying new assessment technologies, tools and practices for application in the region. To support small- and medium-sized manufacturing facilities, MARICE will coordinate with regional stakeholders, utility providers and private industry to identify research-based solutions that will promote energy efficiency and management efforts at these facilities.
“The partnership with Lehigh will enable excellent coverage of the region in providing services to many stakeholders,” said Bhaskaran Gopalakrishnan, director of WVU IAC and professor of industrial and management systems engineering at the Statler College. “Regular interaction with Lehigh University will enable refinement and improvement in the quality of our deliverables which includes research and service.”
The partnerships will also strengthen and improve the services offered by the WVU IAC, which has been successfully operating for over thirty years and has consistently received DOE funding every year since 1992.
“WVU IAC has conducted well over 300 assessments and has demonstrated our capabilities to serve small and medium sized enterprises, suppliers and employers by identifying recommendations to reduce energy, water usage and waste,” said Gopalakrishnan. “Our goal has been to conduct research towards productivity and competitiveness using energy efficient technologies while simultaneously aiding in the development of an energy-savvy workforce for SMEs through intensive training for WVU students and professionals.”
Through MARICE and the new funding, WVU IAC will now be able to extend their outreach efforts across the state. They will target community colleges, trade unions and technical schools to provide workforce training opportunities and promote technical skills related to energy efficiency. Additionally, workshops across the state will provide training and support in the areas of clean energy development, energy efficiency, water and waste reduction, smart manufacturing applications, cyber security enhancement and energy management.
“The stakeholders in WV who will benefit most from the funding are SMEs, water treatment and wastewater treatment plants, students from WVU and from community colleges and trade schools, disadvantaged communities and underserved minority groups,” said Gopalakrishnan. “The funding will enable job-based training for students in community colleges and trade schools to find gainful employment and stay in the state of WV. It will also enable the reduction of operational cost for SMEs located in disadvantaged communities through energy, water and waste reduction, thus increasing the potential for the SMEs to invest in job growth and reap economic development benefits.”
At WVU specifically, the funding will support the recruitment and training of undergraduate and graduate students through the creation of graduate research assistantships and hourly positions.
According to Gopalakrishnan, the project will significantly contribute to the land grant mission of WVU as emphasis will be placed on student-focused activities in research, recognition of students’ achievements, collaboration with private industry participants and fostering positive interaction between current students and manufacturers who are IAC alumni.
Additionally, WVU-IAC will train several WVU students and 20 non-WVU students, with 10 students receiving the existing DOE certificates, and 10 students receiving a new MARICE certificate each year. WVU-IAC will also fill eight MARICE summer research internship positions.
“WVU-IAC will adhere to the DOE Justice40 Plan, where 40 percent of on-site visits, summer internship openings and trainings will benefit disadvantaged communities and underserved minority groups in WV and the region,” said Gopalakrishnan. “WVU students will be able to do assessment inspired research, interact with SME leadership, participate in delivering workshop material, develop online information, visit facilities and gain empowerment in acquiring research-oriented knowledge and information to facilitate their career advancement upon graduation.”
WVU-IAC will conduct 10 multi-day assessments, 10 specialized assessments, and 10 coached self-assessments for small- and medium-sized manufacturers in the mid-Atlantic region per year. WVU-IAC will also enable the development of partnership-based relationships and agreements with labor unions and management-led apprenticeship programs.
In the future, the WVU IAC also plans to develop new degree programs in energy management and manufacturing productivity enhancement to expand their outreach efforts and impact in WV.
Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit
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