Adult Students Meet Eager Employers at Choffin Career Day

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – For more than 70 years, Choffin Career & Technical Center has been giving adults the skills they need to get into the nursing field.

Coming from three current programs – practical nursing, surgical technology and dental assisting – soon-to-be Choffin graduates got a chance to test the job market Tuesday.

There were nearly as many employers hoping to find the right employee as there were Choffin graduates looking to find out what they offer.

Charlotte Walker-Floyd, a surgical technology instructor at Choffin who also graduated from the Choffin program in 1996, said they prepare the students to interview the potential employer.

“It’s about what fits them and their families. We always tell them it has to fit them and their families,” Walker-Floyd said. “We always tell them: ‘They’re interviewing you, but you have to interview the employer because if it doesn’t match with you, then it doesn’t work.’”

Susan Montalbano, human resources manager at One Health Ohio, said the worker shortage is everywhere, and it forces organizations like hers and others at the job fair to get creative, including reaching out to students before they even complete their program or pass their exams. As opposed to some of the other facilities at the job fair, One Health Ohio offers regular hours without having to work nights, weekends or holidays or having to be on call.

Montalbano was there looking for licensed practical nurses and dental assistance for One Health’s community health center in the area. Additionally, she said students can work in its call center and earn money while finishing school.

Montalbano got a chance to tour the facility, and she said the dental director for One Health Ohio is also involved in the Choffin program. Montalbano said she can see why he is so high on the program and dental assistant graduates from Choffin come into their dental clinics with knowledge in the field.

Essence Twiman, the clinical supervisor at Brookdale Senior Living, which helps Alzheimer and dementia residents, was there looking for nurses and caregivers interested in the facility.

A graduate of the Choffin LPN program in 2010, Twiman said Choffin’s program prepared her for her career and more.

“Choffin prepared me for everyday life,” Twiman said. “It taught me discipline. It taught me accountability. It taught me structure, and I was able to use that in my everyday life.”

Essence Twiman, left, health and wellness coordinator and nursing supervisor, and Jessica Halverstadt, recruiter, were recruiting for Brookdale Senior Living.

Additionally, by doing clinicals with young and old patients through hospitals and nursing homes, Twiman said she was ready and knew what to expect when it was time to start her career. She had come to Choffin because she was ready for a career change after working some jobs where she did not feel she had a future. Though working with Alzheimer and dementia patients can be difficult because they may not be the same person from one day to the next, she also finds it rewarding.

“It’s an intense program. It is accelerated in 10 months, so we do two years worth of work in 10 months,” Walker-Floyd said, adding some days the students may have multiple quizzes and exams, and the instructors know about the intensity of the work required.

Walker-Floyd said by the time they came to the career fair, the surgical tech students were prepared and nearly ready to graduate. They were ready to pass their certification, and some will be hired even before they finish their certification.

“I think the reason our students stick out is because every instructor came from this program,” Walker-Floyd said, noting they understand the intensity of the program and also the excuses students may try to use. “That doesn’t fly with us.”

Dr. Sherry Cross, director of adult education at Choffin, said this past year was a very small class in all three departments. Yet these positions are all so critically needed.

“We have approximately six surgical techs, yet every hospital here is begging for a surgical tech,” Cross said. “We have 15 practical nurses, and we have six dental assistants this year. This is the smallest class ever. Right after the whole COVID, people didn’t know we’re still here.”

Dr. Sherry Cross, director of adult education at Choffin Career & Technical Center.

Cross said this is a generation of people looking at their options, and Choffin is set up to get them ready for the workforce with an accelerated program and lots of clinical hours of experience. More than 30 dental clinics have articulation agreements with Choffin, as well as 15 different nursing homes and the nearby hospitals. Students can get clinical hours right near home.

Although next year is the last year Choffin will be able to offer the 10-month surgical technology program, through a partnership with Kent State University, Choffin students will still be able to get the same program with the additional requirement of taking some prerequisite classes through KSU. The students will still get nationally recognized certification and an associates degree.

Students in the dental assistant program get some of their hands-on clinical training at the facility, which has a working dental clinic from November through the end of February. Cross said the students get to work with visiting dentists, who offer services for $20, giving $25,000 in free services each year.

“This is great clinical work for our dental assistants,”Cross said, “because they are getting ready to work with clients and learn customer care, which we want them to do.”

Choffin is currently open for enrollment for its fall programs, all which provide a living wage and are in-demand jobs, Cross said.

With several health-related high school classes, Cross said Choffin is working on some ways to bridge those high school students right into the adult programs for those who are interested in the health field.

The annual Choffin career fair is usually held in March or April, but it had to be rescheduled after power outages in the area the week it was originally planned in 2023.

Pictured at top: Mary Beth DiPaolo, left, interim human resources director, and Susan Montalbano, human resources manager, were recruiting for One Health Ohio.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.