FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The Vantage Career Center has called Van Wert home since 1976, and in that time, it has opened up alternative employment education options to students and adults.

“We’ve trained thousands of high school and adult students … last year alone, we issued over 1,400 industry credentials that local companies say that they need,” said Rick Turner, superintendent of Vantage Career Center.

On Wednesday, the center got a big financial boost.

“They just won a grant where they’re going to be able to expand into a CDL trucking program and their first responders, which are really important. These are in high demand and sometimes can be very expensive to get to training. Well now, we offer it here. It can be free,” said Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, who was present to announce the grant.

The $1,229,175 grant that the school received was given through the Career Technical Construction Program which was announced on Nov. 3, which is providing $200 million dollars to programs similar to Vantage Career Center across the state.

“Ohio just launched $200 million in grants to help build out our career centers and expand them,” Husted said. “Many of our career centers are full … with these grants, we’re going to allow the physical space for these schools to expand [so] they can expand their offerings.”

The grant will build new facilities to help students gain their CDL, along with another facility designed to train new first responders.

“It will allow us to expand capacity in our CDL truck driving, which is a very high-demand occupation right now for our companies,” Turner said. “It will also allow us to better support our public safety community, in particular our fire departments with higher level training for their fire departments.”

The CDL program will be improved by adding lighting to the existing lot that students use to practice for their CDL.

“The heart of our expansion lies in illuminating the surface lot used by our high school and adult CDL training program,” Turner said. “A significant step of meeting the demand for skilled CDL licenses.”

The second big addition from the grant will be geared toward public safety.

A rendering of the new fire training facility

“We are committed to expanding our fire and safety training facilities, this [will help] to fill the shortage of firefighters in our region,” Turner said.

The new facility will be multiple stories and give trainees more realistic training options so that they are better equipped for the field.

In total, Husted is excited about what the grant means for the future of Ohio and is encouraged about where the state currently sits.

“Right now, Ohio has the lowest unemployment rate and the most jobs in the history of the state,” Husted said. “This is an exciting time. Career centers are the best value in education [and] more students, families and parents should take advantage of it.”

The money must be spent by June 30, 2025, but Turner said construction will begin within the year.