CANFIELD, Ohio – Tony Pratt, a graphic design student at Mahoning County Career and Technical Center, sat down for his moment in the spotlight. He pulled forward a chair, sat next to Renee Mulhall, owner of S&T Engraving and Awards, and they got their photo taken.
Pratt was one of four students honored Wednesday as part of signing day at MCCTC for In-Demand Jobs Week. The event is modeled after the signing ceremony when a senior commits to play a sport for a particular college or university. About 100 students were honored during the week for taking the next step in their lives as they prepare to enter the workforce.
“Some of our kids go right into the workforce, and we felt when they make those career decisions they need to be honored just like other people are,” MCCTC Principal Ralph Sandy said.
The celebrations at MCCTC began on Tuesday, when the school held a signing event for students enrolling in college or university, as well as students enlisting in the military. The events at MCCTC are in honor of In-Demand Jobs Week, a “statewide celebration of the jobs, industries and skills that are in demand in Ohio,” according to the Ohio Department of Education website.
Pratt wanted a career that allowed him to be creative.
“Graphic design, you see it everywhere,” Pratt said. “Packages, newspapers, magazines. It’s everywhere. It evolved and became a trade instead of something you want to specifically do.”
Mulhall said it’s difficult to find creative people who already know how to run the design programs. But she found a quality hire in Pratt. He has already impressed Mulhall with his ability to operate the Poland company’s unique programs.
“Tony, he’s ready to work,” Mulhall said. “Kids coming out of college, sometimes they’re too busy having a fun time or aren’t quite ready for the workforce yet. He was ready and he was prepared the minute he walked in the door.”
S&T Engraving and Awards has five employees, and Mulhall said the company could use one or two more.
“You go to S&T, it’s original,” Pratt said when asked why he chose the company. “It’s their own stuff. You don’t see it anywhere else.”
Angel Ortiz originally was drawn to electrical work when he joined MCCTC. But he decided on a career in early childhood education. He wanted to get into a field where he could help children and was always drawn to teachers.
“I figured I could provide a better childhood for other children if I could go through an education program such as the one I’m in right now,” Ortiz said.
MCCTC provided a pathway for Ortiz’s career. Small Wonders Discovery and Learning Center, which operates inside MCCTC, allows education students to work with children in a supervised environment while attending class.
“He is with the lab students, and we teach them and help them grow to get their [Child Development Associate] credential, [learn] about child care – the different rules and regulations – communication, bonding and the different steps on how to care for a child,” said Marizol Lopez, administrator of the Small Wonders site.
Ortiz, who is a senior, works part-time at Small Wonders and will become full-time when he graduates. In the fall, he will study music at the University of Akron.
“[Music] is one of the harder subjects to teach, but I hope that 10 years down the line, I’m able to keep up with it and I’m able to be in any school system as a fully-employed teacher,” Ortiz said.
Bryce Schmid has been working at Boardman Molded Products for the past few months. He studied machining at MCCTC and rolled his education into a job in the tool department, working on plastic ejection molding.
“I saw an opportunity there where I was able to work and gain some experience,” Schmid said.
Schmid said that he could possibly continue his education in college or he could stay with the company and continue to improve.
Megan Christoff studied advanced machining while at MCCTC. She always had fun playing with Legos when she was young and decided to work in manufacturing.
She landed a part-time job with Extrudex Aluminum in North Jackson.
“It took me a little while to understand the whole mathematics and everything, but after a while, I got used to it,” Christoff said.
She hopes her experience at Extrudex Aluminum will allow her to continue her career at a larger manufacturer. She said she would like to work for a company like General Motors or Lordstown Motors.
“I knew I could further myself in manufacturing and get better at it,” she said.
Mike Baxter, the human resources manager for Extrudex Aluminum, said the company employs around 180 but needs to fill some 25 positions.
Baxter said the company didn’t use part-time employees until last year. It now employs seven MCCTC students, and four of them will become full-time after graduation.
“Every student we’ve hired from MCCTC has worked out wonderfully,” Baxter said. “They’re good solid workers. They’re doing a valuable service for us, even at the part-time level.”
Pictured at top: On hand for the In-Demand Jobs Week signing event at MCCTC were Angel Ortiz, an Early Childhood Education student, and staff from Small Wonders Discovery and Learning Center, including Marizol Lopez, administrator, Education Coordinator Danyell Smith, Executive Administrator Kirsten Mariotti and Bridget Russell, the human resource director.