One obstacle to workforce training is that manufacturing companies can be quite a hike from the community colleges that serve their areas. When specialized instruction is a 45-minute or hour drive away, employers might be reluctant to send their workers, figuring it will be too much of a time suck.

In Cleveland, Cuyahoga Community College’s (Tri-C) Manufacturing Technology Center recently came up with a creative answer to the distance problem—a mobile training unit that serves eight counties.

The center purchased a used 53-foot trailer and retrofitted it for use as a manufacturing classroom and laboratory. It can travel to schools, workforce fairs, companies in outlying suburbs—pretty much anywhere there are 10 consecutive parking spaces to park the behemoth. The college’s Transportation Academy (aka truck driving school) takes care of transporting the trailer.

 “We designed it so any piece of equipment we have at the college, we can bring it into the trailer—as long as it fits through our 53-foot-door,” says Alicia Booker, vice president of manufacturing with Tri-C’s Workforce, Community and Economic Development division.

The trailer is divided into a classroom in front—with work stations, wi-fi, a whiteboard and video equipment—and a lab area for hands-on instruction in back.

Attendees of the IndustryWeek Manufacturing & Technology Conference and Expo on May 8-10 can check out the mobile classroom, which for the event will be equipped with a 3-D printer, a virtual welder, a programmable logic controller station and a thermal power station.

The back half of the trailer has 110 and 220 volt power and an air unit to run all kinds of equipment, except for welders, which require an exhaust system the trailer doesn’t have. Another community college in the area offers a mobile unit for welding, says Booker, and “we didn’t want to duplicate services.”

The “roving instructional space” has been on the road since February, visiting workforce and manufacturing events around Ohio. The plan is that manufacturers will hire Tri-C to bring the training to them. A director from the manufacturing school will come out to assess an employer’s needs and come up with a plan.  

“If you say, ‘OK, we want training on the PLCs or we want electrical, we would load it up with what you needed,” says Booker. “It would be fairly customized, but still something that you could share across industry.”

See the Tri-C Mobile Unit in action at the IndustryWeek M&T Show: