YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – If Michael Kovach, president of City Machine Technologies Inc., had his way, he’d hire 20 more employees just like Ryan Swanson.
Swanson, a 24-year-old welder employed at CMT, stands out in that most of those who work around him – including his father Kevin, a machinist – are much older, with decades of experience in the skilled trades.
“My grandfather was a welder,” Swanson says. “He passed on a couple of books to me and told me how good a welding career could be. I’ve been welding since I was 14.”
After completing his secondary school education at Trumbull Career & Technical Center, Swanson went on to work at TMK Ipsco in Brookfield before landing his position with CMT three years ago. “I just recently earned my certifications in all the positions,” he says.
Swanson represents the next generation of skilled tradesmen who are not afraid to tackle jobs in the manufacturing industry. The challenge for manufacturers is that young tradesmen such as Swanson are more difficult to find as many of the experienced employees leave the workforce.
“COVID scared a lot of our guys into retirement,” Kovach says.
The pandemic led to at least a dozen tradesmen to leave their jobs at CMT. “We’re hiring guys now who are in their 50s – not that that’s bad, but we’d like to get more youth involved,” he says.
The company has also re-hired some of those who recently retired as part-time employees, he says.
On May 4, those who work in the industrial trades were honored as part of National Skilled Trades Day, a recognition that was first proffered by CMT.
“We need to celebrate those who roll up their sleeves and have sweat on their brow, because for so long, everyone said you have to go to college,” says Claudia Kovach, vice president and Michael Kovach’s daughter.
It was Claudia Kovach who initiated the process to establish National Skilled Trades Day through the National Day Calendar Registry. It was first celebrated in 2019 and is now observed annually on the first Wednesday in May.
“We need the truck drivers, the machinists, the mechanics – you can’t turn a blind eye to getting sweaty during the day, because those are the jobs that are always going to stay in Youngstown and in the USA,” she says. “They’re never going to be outsourced.”
The day also recognizes medical technicians, hearing/ventilation/air conditioning specialists, electricians and other skilled trades positions.
In commemorating the day, the company provided lunch for all of its 65 employees.
Among the objectives of National Skilled Trades Day is raising awareness of how important it is for young people to consider manufacturing and the skilled trades as a career, Claudia Kovach says.
Underscoring this is CMT’s creation of a free, downloadable coloring book to teach children about careers in machining, she says. After the child has colored it, she suggests stapling it like a book and reading it with the child. Those interested can download and print the 2022 coloring book along with years past here.
The company also encourages others to raise awareness about the benefits of the skilled trades through social media by using the hashtag #NationalSkilledTradesDay.
CMT remanufactures and reconditions components for a variety of industries, including steel, power generation, rail docks, wastewater treatment, nuclear, machine shops and food manufacturing – any operation that requires equipment to run their business, Michael Kovach says.
The company president says he could use 20 more employees and reactivate CMT’s third shift because of business. “We’ve hired five people over the last three months,” he says. “We can train them.”
Geno DiFabio, a truck driver for CMT, says the company is often called to perform on-site work and it’s hard to find employees.
“There’s good money to be made here,” he says. “We fix stuff for just about every industry there is and we need the next generation.”
State Sen. Sandra O’Brien, R-32 Ashtabula, who toured CMT’s operations on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on National Skilled Trades Day, says the trades present an option to those young people who might not be prepared for college.
“If you like working with your hands, there are other opportunities where you could come out with considerably less debt,” O’Brien says. “You’ll find a job faster and you can start in your career.”
Winders, welders, machinists, truck drivers, field service technicians, electricians, and industrial maintenance positions are among the positions CMT is trying to fill now, Michael Kovach says. “We need the gamut.”
Often, prospective employees are reluctant to work at a company that requires random drug tests, Kovach has found.
Others simply don’t have the interest or the skill sets needed for these jobs, he says.
“The kids aren’t fixing their bicycles or building their go-carts like we used to,” he says. “We’re looking for those shade-tree mechanics. From there, the sky’s the limit.”
Pictured: Michael Kovach, his daughter, Claudia, and her 2-year-old son, Mike “Rusty” Madden, led the celebration.