COLUMBIANA, Ohio – Colton Hickman, a precision machining student from East Palestine, not only is excelling at his Columbiana County Career and Technical Center program while still in high school, but also through a work placement program at Hall Industries Inc. in Ellwood City, Pa.
Hickman has taken what he has learned about operating a CNC machine and gained additional experience making a variety of pieces at Hall Industries, which he credits with teaching him new skills.
He appreciates the willingness of the company to be flexible and work around his school schedule so he can continue to get job experience while completing high school this spring.
Carmin Barron, a human resources assistant with Hall Industries, a family-owned company that has been around for 60 years, said she was hoping to find more students like Hickman while participating in the CCCTC career fair March 9.
“He has one of the best work ethics,” Barron said, adding she asked the students she met at the career fair if they know Hickman.
“He’s always willing to learn new things, new machines. He’s been a great asset,” she added
Barron said Hall is looking at students with hands-on skills to become entry-level CNC machinists for the company, which employs nearly 300 and fabricates small and large parts for a variety of uses in the medical and airline industries.
Like many companies, Barron said Hall Industries finds it difficult to find good employees, especially those who want to stay long term. They find better candidates at schools like CCCTC in Lisbon.
“The programs through the technical schools – we can find so many candidates – because they already have the experience from the programs they’re taking,” Barron said.
The schools often approach local companies to tout some of their students who could be a good fit after school.
She credits the job fairs with giving Hall Industries a chance to gain name recognition with the students.
CCCTC juniors and seniors got an opportunity to meet with many businesses from Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties, as well as western Pennsylvania. Also present were representatives from skilled-trade unions, the military, tech schools and colleges – nearly 60 organizations in all.
The CCCTC student services coordinator, Michelle Fitzsimmons, said the fair gives students an opportunity to learn about companies with which they might be unfamiliar, expanding their prospects for employment.
The event also gives a smaller company, such as LM Cases, a manufacturer in Austintown, a chance to overcome the tight labor market and find talent.
CEO William LaGuardia said his company came seeking young employees trained in CNC machining, carpentry and even automotive training because of the many parts needed to construct the cases.
LaGuardia hopes to see students stay in the area and work for companies here. He has concerns, though, that the Intel project outside of Columbus may draw many of the next generation away from the Mahoning Valley.
Six years ago, when she began the job fair, Fitzsimmons said it was in response to finding so many of the students knew only about businesses in their hometowns or places where a parent or other relative had previously worked. She wants them to expand their options.
For some students, there is a fear of the unknown. But, after spending time speaking with these companies, Fitzsimmons believes the students might be willing to drive to Youngstown or elsewhere for a job.
Andrew Gorby, a tower foreman with STG Communications in Columbiana, said he was at the career fair to seek new and bright talent for a growing industry, which services telecommunication towers. The company needs both people ready to climb the towers and on the ground doing the electrical work.
Gorby said he found some CCCTC students already have OSHA training and some already knew how to don climbing harnesses.
STG is looking for employees who are, what Gorby describes, “respectful, resourceful, reliable and responsive.”
A good fit would be someone with electrical-wiring experience, someone who likes heights, does not mind traveling and wants something different.
“There’s no other job like this, not even close,” Gorby said. ”This isn’t a job. It’s an adventure.”
For STG, Gorby says it’s harder to keep employees than to find them to begin with. The company though, is growing and working hard to improve retention.
DISCOVERING THEIR OPTIONS
Although some of the students attending the career fair already had an idea of what their immediate future holds, they were still able to find other options to consider.
Kamdyn Stacey, a senior from East Palestine studying information technology, plans to work in the tech field while attending school at Eastern Gateway Community College and Youngstown State University to study financial management and cybersecurity. Both Eastern Gateway and YSU had representatives at the job fair.
One day, Stacey wants to start his own technology business.
While Stacey has made many of his plans, he believes the job fair gives students a chance to explore many options, to network and then practice their interviewing skills, which too often makes many students nervous.
He would recommend an education at a career center because, Stacey says, it gives students a chance to pursue their passions, and put something on their resumes that will put them ahead of their peers who stayed at their high school.
At 17, Crestview student Emma Julian believes she is well ahead of her high school peers.
Julian is at junior level one in the health academy program, and plans to test for her State Tested Nurses Aid license in May.
In her senior year she plans to learn phlebotomy, EKG and child-care services. Her goals include becoming a registered nurse working in labor and delivery. She believes she is well on her way.
After high school, she hopes to return to the adult education program at CCCTC, which offers both advanced training toward becoming a licensed practical nurse and then LPN to RN program.
In addition, CCCTC high school graduates from the health academy who return for the adult education program receive a $4,000 scholarship to help pay for it.
At the job fair, Julian met some health care employers and talked with them about gaining experience.
Several people from health care organizations in attendance urged her to reach out to them once she gets her STNA.
Prepping for the career fair, Fitzsimmons said students work in advance, which includes practicing their interviewing skills, learning about what they should ask, appropriate behavior and writing their resumes.
“Leading up to it, we hear a lot of grumbling, ‘Oh I don’t want to interview,’ ‘I don’t know if I want to go out there,’ ‘I’m shy,’” Fitzsimmons said. “But then usually afterwards they are like, ‘I’m really glad I did that. It was a great experience.’”
The companies give the students feedback and a taste of what it will be like to go to a professional interview.
“Mock interviews are going great and we love it,” Barron, from Hall Industries, said between interviews with students bringing resumes to their display.
“It gets them prepared for life after school, for them to go into interviews more comfortable and land a job that they want,” she said.
Fitzsimmons said mock interviews help students become more comfortable with yet another skill they need.
“A lot of these are human resource people. So they are professional interviewers. They give them tips on things they can do better,” Fitzsimmons said. “Plus the companies, if they are looking to hire, they get a snapshot of some of our students.”
Fitzsimmons said she tries to find participants from the community that relate to the 12 career programs students can study at CCCTC.
That is easier, she said, with the health care and manufacturing industries, which have large presences in the region and are the focus of the larger programs at the CCCTC.
“One of the companies who comes every year, Hall Industries … the first year they came they hired one of our IT students because they needed somebody who would do their computers,” Fitzsimmons said.
“They came here more looking for machinists and she did a mock interview with them and they said, hey would you like a job.”
Pictured at top: Carmin Barron of Hall Industries greets Colton Hickman, an East Palestine student, at the CCCTC career fair March 9. Hickman participates in a student work program through Hall Industries and Barron said she hopes to find more students like Hickman with a work ethic and wiliness to learn at the fair.