A groundbreaking education initiative focused on providing high-tech companies and health care organizations in Clark and Greene counties with the talent they need to compete, Future Jobs was announced during a news conference in Wittenberg's Bayley Auditorium in the Barbara Deer Kuss Science Center on Thursday. University, community, business, state government and even United States military leaders were joined by students from the Springfield City School District for the announcement.
"Future Jobs will promote education and training in science, technology, engineering and math – sometimes known as STEM," said Wittenberg University President Mark H. Erickson, who will serve on the Board of Directors of Future Jobs.
Erickson credited the creation of Future Jobs to State Representative Chris Widener and Qbase Chief Executive Bill Pardue, saying: "These leaders knew that a focused group of public and private partners could create a successful STEM program in short order."
The first phase of Future Jobs, an employer-driven program that is the first of its kind in Ohio, will cost more than $3 million. According to Pardue, who will serve as chairman of Future Jobs, it could become a model for other communities where there is a mismatch between the available workforce and job openings requiring technical or scientific education.
Students at five colleges – Wittenberg, the University of Dayton, Cedarville University, Central State University and Clark State Community College – will participate in the first phase. They will work toward certificates and undergraduate and graduate degrees in information technologies related to health care and imaging diagnostics. High school students from the Springfield City Schools and the Clark-Shawnee School District will also participate in the program.
"Each year we attract some of the best and brightest students from Ohio, the country and the world to this campus," Erickson said. "This program will help keep these students in Ohio in great jobs."
Wittenberg is well-positioned to be a leader in the Future Jobs initiative because of its innovative computational science program. The university has been a forerunner in undergraduate computational science since the late-1990s and was one of the first in the nation to offer a formal program in it. Recently retired Professor of Computer Science Jim Noyes, a member of the statewide users' group for Ohio Supercomputer (OSC) since its inception, drafted a white paper that included a proposal for computational science and the development of technological resources in 1997, long before computational science was on most schools' educational radar.
The computational science program became a reality when the expanded Barbara Deer Kuss Science Center opened in 2003, providing state-of-the-art facilities, equipment and laboratories, including a 64-bit WARP (Wittenberg Advanced Research Processors) cluster of computers. The compute nodes consist of 12 dual processor nodes and one quad processor node (28 compute processors in all). Each node utilizes 1.6 GHz processors. The dual processor nodes have two gigibytes (GB) of RAM, and the quad processor has eight GB of RAM. There is approximately 1.7 terabytes (TB) of disk space. Its purpose is to solve challenging science problems that cannot be easily solved on regular workstations.
Computational science is a research discipline that combines the methodologies of computer science with the techniques of applied mathematics to model and solve problems in the natural and social sciences. Traditionally, research was performed in a laboratory mixing chemicals or by developing theories, but computational science allows researchers to work through modeling and simulation, as they do when designing aircraft or mapping the human genetic code.
The Ohio State Legislature appropriated $1 million for Future Jobs, and another $1 million has been raised from the private sector, including the Turner Foundation in Springfield. Employers leading the effort include Qbase, a data management and analytics company with operations in Clark and Greene counties; Woolpert, an engineering and geospatial imaging firm headquartered in Greene County; the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association; the Sensors Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory; and YSI, a Greene County company with solutions for the life sciences and protection of natural resources.
According to QBase, the education partners in Future Jobs will design their own coursework and curriculum after consulting with employers. The Future Jobs board will lead fundraising and track the initiative's progress against metrics and milestones established in collaboration with legislative leaders and the Ohio Board of Regents.
Written By: Ryan Maurer
Photo By: Robbie Gantt
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