EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio (WKBN) – New Castle School of Trades opened its third campus in East Liverpool on Friday, creating a glimmer of hope for many searching for employment.

The trade school renovated the 35,000 square feet of the old Ogilvie and Woolworth department stores on Fifth Street.

The building is ready for recruiting but not quite ready for classes, which will start in January. The city used state and historical tax credits to help with the renovation, which is why there is still tin ceiling.

“We really could see ourselves in the East Liverpool community and after meeting people, we realized we could make a difference in this town,” Rex Spaulding said.

With layoffs at the General Motors plant in Lordstown and ValleyCare Health System hospitals, it’s been a tough week for employment in the area. Unemployment around the county runs at 6.3 percent.

East Liverpool is also trying to distance itself from an outdated reputation.

New Castle School of Trades opened a new campus in East Liverpool.

“We’re not the pottery town that we were. That’s our history and we’re looking to our future, and this is the rebirth of it with education,” Mayor Ryan Stovall said.

The new NCST branch will offer four training programs when classes start. Spaulding says they can provide a viable alternative for workers who are losing their jobs.

“Basically, our programs are entry-level, so if somebody’s looking to start out in a new trade career, this is a great stepping stone to get their foot in the door, build on those skills once they’re on the job. So there’s certainly a lot of aspects of this that will appeal to people between jobs or looking for short-term training programs.”

Training can take anywhere from seven weeks to 15 months. The training programs available will be commercial truck driving, electrical and industrial maintenance, refrigeration and climate control, and welding.

“Those have been successful programs on our New Castle campus. We’ve done very well with those programs,” Spaulding said. “Seemed to realize from talking to employers in the area, a need in those four specific areas. So they fit this facility, they fit the need of the community.”

One person who is ready to take advantage of the opportunity is Doug Wimer, a military veteran who could qualify for benefits under the G.I. Bill.

“I think I would like the welding class because I’ve seen a lot of buildings built and the welders come in, and I really think I’d enjoy something such as that,” he said.

Stovall thinks the classes will be popular and with an upturn in gas and shale drilling, they’ll prepare people for the jobs that are going to be available.