Fostoria Learning Center offers high-tech training, development options with OARnet connectivity

A group from OH-TECH tours Fostoria Learning Center

Ninety percent of the people who live in Fostoria, Ohio, live and work in or near the same small city. Unfortunately, to receive the training necessary for jobs, most people have to travel at least 30 minutes outside the rural northwestern Ohio town to access community colleges or training centers.

That changed with the opening of the Fostoria Learning Center this past fall. With connectivity from OARnet, the learning center in the heart of Fostoria hosts training and education classes, including an injection of technology the area sorely needed. With the necessary broadband to support high-tech classrooms and labs, the center provides a remote location for surrounding colleges to hold classes and space for community programs.

The idea for the center was formed in 2010 after the Fostoria Economic Development Corporation led a workforce-development initiative, finding grants and funding sources, collaborating with local and state agencies, and partnering with area colleges and universities such as Marion Technical College and Terra State Community College. With the opening of the center, citizens of Fostoria can take classes to become medical laboratory technicians, medical assistants, and phlebotomists through classes taught by professors from these local higher education institutions.

“We have an amazing facility here,” said Tracey Lawton, director of the Center. “We have a mechatronics lab, we have a medical technology lab, we have a computer suite, we have a collaboration studio, we have three classrooms, and all of these rooms have the latest technology wired into them. Lectures can be delivered remotely to students, or the lecturer that’s here at the learning center can live stream a lecture back to campus.”

Fostoria Learning Center hosts classes taught by local area community colleges.

Leadership at Terra State Community College was instrumental in ensuring the Fostoria Learning Center had OARnet connectivity. Client Relations Manager Dana Rogers said Terra State initially reached out to OARnet before the center was finished to help facilitate last-mile connections. The community college has reaped the benefits of OARnet’s high-speed backbone for years as a longstanding OARnet member.

“Terra State Community College encourages small and large businesses in our area to reach out to OARnet and OSC and effectively build for the future,” said Jerome Webster, Ph.D., president of Terra State Community College, in a statement.

The learning center recently had its bandwidth tested when a small fire in a local high school displaced more than 400 students for nearly four weeks as the school was cleaned. The center had the space to host grades 9–12 during this time, when Lawton and her staff quickly learned to change the WI-FI password with the sudden influx of teenagers and their smart phones.

“From that, I learned we have a really, really solid internet connection,” Lawton said. “It’s great. It didn’t falter at all under all that pressure.”

Lawton said while the center has big plans for more training opportunities and community events, she wants to keep the programming flexible for the changing needs of the Fostoria area.

“My vision is to just see the center busy every day with all kinds of different programs happening,” Lawton said. “The possibilities are just limitless right now because we have so many different options with this space.”

Written by Audrey Carson
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