YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Area companies are searching for employees through the vast information technology pipeline.
Robert Merva, CEO of Avrem Technologies, started his company when he was a 17-year-old high school senior. He’s not necessarily looking for someone with a bachelor’s degree.
“Probably the single most important thing to me, and it’s really subjective and hard to measure, is the ability to think quickly on your feet,” he says.
“You have to, as an IT guy, be able to adapt to changing situations. You have to be able to go into a situation you’ve never dealt with before and figure it out. You have to be able to fill your own gaps and your own knowledge and know what questions to ask to get to the answers. Sometimes you can’t teach that, Merva says.
About 197,000 more IT professionals were hired in 2021 than in 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The national average IT salary is $206,252 as of Dec. 27, according to Salary.com – with a range falling between $59,165 to $353,339.
Anthony DePinto, chief information officer of IDMI, says his company is looking for honest, hardworking employees who have the ability to work on their own with little guidance.
“We have shifted primarily to working from home. So that makes new hires a little more difficult to gauge on their work ethic,” he says.
The hiring process has also changed with virtual interviews, DePinto says. For IDMI, that expands possibilities and provides challenges.
“In a sense, it opens up who we can hire to anywhere in the country. But not having employees onsite or local makes it harder to get to know them and develop camaraderie,” he says.
People who have a passion for IT and have been in the workforce for a while – having familiarity with Office 365, Windows 10, basic computer and networking skills, along with hardware troubleshooting – are most desirable.
Candidates coming from another managed services provider, and who are familiar with the industry and the tools Avrem Technologies uses, have an advantage in Merva’s hiring process.
“That shoots people right to the top,” Merva says.
The COVID-19 pandemic increased the need for remote workers and more tech companies are supporting that workforce choice, says Mahoning County Career and Technical Center instructor Jamison Mills.
He adds that commuting to Akron, Cleveland, Canton or Pittsburgh is possible from the Youngstown area – which he did before teaching at the trade school.
For these job seekers, skills, industry certifications, hands-on training, strong resumes, along with good customer service and professionalism give them an edge.
“Those jobs are out there,” Mills says.
EDUCATING THE WORKFORCE
MCCTC offers computer networking and cybersecurity instruction, as well as software engineering that focuses on application development and programming languages.
Students in Mills’ program spend two years constructing cases, motherboards, memory, hard drive and other intricate parts of a computer They are designed for high school students to keep after graduating.
This is the fourth year of this program and Mills says about half pursue a college degree while the rest head to the workforce.
“It’s a piece of hardware that they’ve dedicated their time and energy to keep running and keeping clean and keeping a well-oiled machine,” Mills says. “We send them off with a decent enough computer to take care of their college education or help them in their work.”
Merva is on the advisory board at MCCTC. He says the school adapts quickly to the everchanging spectrum of network and cybersecurity.
“If I’m making a recommendation in the spring, chances are it’s going to make it in the curriculum in the fall,” he says. “The engagement from the teachers; they really care and work hard for their students. It’s obvious how dedicated they are.”
At ECMSI, experience and previous job stability play into hiring decisions, says Jerry Savo, chief financial officer.
Savo says ECMSI works with Youngstown State University, Kent State Trumbull, Trumbull Career and Technical Center, MCCTC and OhioMeansJobs to secure new talent. The Struthers company also offers current employees incentives to recruit new workers.
DePinto says he works through YSU and other colleges via Handshake, an app on which companies can post jobs, internships, schedule on-campus interviews, request and review resumes, and prescreen candidates for on-site interviews.
“I teach part-time [computer science] at YSU most semesters. So I have been lucky to pull in tech support agents in the past,” he says. “I have three former students on staff full time right now.”
Merva says Avrem Technologies prefers people with a good personality and the soft skills employers in all professions require.
“I want to stress that you can be phenomenal in the technical abilities you have,” he says. “If you can’t communicate your ideas clearly to other people, work as part of a team, or if you struggle in meetings, it’s harder to get a job. You might get looked over.”
Mills says his students are part of a larger career and technical student organization called the Business Professionals of America, in which they compete against other trade schools on interview skills, resume writing, interacting with human resources. It fine-tunes their soft skills.
His goal is to have students interacting with customers, who “feel like they’re dealing with a trusted professional and put forth their best professional foot forward when they go out there and start working.”