Toledo man turns academic success into Metroparks career

Julian Kelson

Julian Kelson

The next wave of advanced manufacturing workers will possess a skillset that prepares them for modern employment. These men and women will be critical thinkers and problem solvers who enjoy working with their hands.

Math classes are part of the curriculum helping educate students at the new Owens Community College Dana Center for advanced manufacturing training. Julian Kelson, an Owens Electrical graduate, said he found a unique way to excel in his Owens math classes – listening to Beethoven.

“In my first math class, my teacher told the class that it’s scientifically proven that listening to classical music does something to the brain that improves your focus,” said the Parks Technician for Metroparks Toledo. “I found that to be very true. It worked. It puts me in the zone.”

The $10 million Dana Center on the Toledo-area Campus in Perrysburg will fully open in the coming months, enabling Owens to expand its current offerings and prepare a pipeline of skilled workers needed to fill in-demand jobs.

Programs include Applied Engineering, CAD Technology, Electrical, HVAC, Machining, Mechanical/Pneumatics, Robotics/Programmable Logic Control (PLC) and Tool and Die.

“The Dana Center will have the wow factor that younger students are looking for in their education and its comprehensive approach will appeal to men and women alike, regardless of age,” Quinton Roberts, Dean of Workforce and Community Services, said. “Students who receive their education and training at the Dana Center will be prepared to work for their new employer on the first day.”

Kelson, 30, has a diverse job where he builds, repairs and maintains all parts of the Metroparks.

He grew up in Toledo’s Old West End, but dropped out of high school before completing. While working on his GED, which he earned in 2009, he entered a summer program with the Metroparks. He was identified as a hard-worker and progressed with the Metroparks to seasonal and then part-time employment. Wanting a full-time Metroparks job, the pathway meant going to college.

“I was looking at the Owens website and found what I needed in the Building Maintenance certificate,” he said. “I was enjoying going to school and being productive. I wanted to broaden my experiences and I did by taking more certificates at Owens (Welding, Plumbing). I sat in the front row too. I didn’t want any distractions in the classroom. I took what I learned back to work and I felt more confident on the job. I didn’t have a family at the time. I wanted to learn it all.”

Now a father of two boys, he said many of his classmates were Skilled Trades apprentices with advanced knowledge in the field, a fact that pushed him in his labs.

“I learned a lot just by talking to those guys. I was surrounded by knowledge,” said Kelson, who graduated in May 2017.

The Dana Center consolidates the manufacturing and skilled trades labs in one location so that students learn valuable information and skills using modern technology needed for in-demand careers. Labor data suggests more than 2,100 job openings paying an average annual salary of $63,000 will be available in the next five years in Lucas, Wood and Hancock counties.

“We collaborate with a number of northwest Ohio companies on their training needs, so our students have access to an established network of employers,” Roberts said. “The existing workforce is aging and a large pool of employees in our area plan to retire in the next few years. We are ready to train new students using modern technology so they are job-ready.”

For more information about the Dana Center, visit

Published October 2020