TCTC Students Showcase Their Skills for Career and Tech Education Month

CHAMPION TOWNSHIP, Ohio — On Tuesday morning, the pre-nursing phlebotomy classroom at Trumbull Career & Technical Center was abuzz with activity as students practiced drawing blood on each other and willing participants.

Students and instructors within the career and technical school lent a hand – or more accurately, an arm – to give the pre-nursing students an opportunity to practice on a live patient instead of the mannequins that line the back wall in beds. For the students, that kind of hands-on experience is why they enrolled in the program.

“You can’t just look at a chart and be like, ‘Oh yeah, so that vein’s going to be there next week.’ It’s all different,” said Anna MacKenzie, a student at TCTC and senior at LaBrae High School. “So we need the hands-on aspect to be able to see each person and the way that their body’s formatted.”

The blood draw demonstration is part of TCTC’s celebration of Career and Technical Education Month, a public awareness campaign that takes place in February, according to the Association for Career & Technical Education website.

During the morning hours, the school welcomed members of the press to tour the school and showcase some of the programs that are preparing students to enter the workforce or continue on to college. In addition to the pre-nursing lab, demonstrations were conducted by students in auto collision technology, early childhood education and culinary arts.

Anna MacKenzie practices drawing blood on Alexis Parthemer in the pre-nursing phlebotomy tech lab at TCTC.

The pre-nursing students recently had one of the top first-time passing rates for the state-tested nursing aide exam, scoring 90% on the written part of the exam and 95% on the skills portion, well above the statewide rates of 67% and 83%, respectively. Between the phlebotomy and the pharmacy tech programs, the school has 18 students who attained their STNA credentials this year, said Barb Meyer, program instructor.

“So we have 18 students now that can go out and work as nursing assistants in long-term care facilities or in the hospital setting or doing home care,” she said.

Pairing their STNA certifications with phlebotomy makes the students more marketable, particularly in hospitals “because they can do more at their job,” Meyer said.

And half of the students who earned their credential are already working jobs in the health-care field locally, said Morgan Cretella, community engagement coordinator. TCTC typically enrolls some 900 to 1,000 Trumbull County juniors and seniors annually.

All of the school’s 28 programs prepare students for immediate employment or furthering their education, and all of the instructors have personal backgrounds in their fields of education, she said. Students can also earn college credit through the programs.

“We’re understanding and working with them, determining what it is that they want to do,” she said.

Alayna Tyler, a Howland High School senior enrolled in TCTC’s early childhood education program said the skills she’s learning now will help her transition to college. Tyler will study education at Kent State University at Trumbull in the fall and eventually wants to be a fourth-grade teacher.

“I’ve always had a passion for teaching kids. I’ve always loved being around them, I love the energy that they give off. They’re so much fun to be around,” she said. “There’s just never a dull moment in here.”

Angelena Baum and Alayna Tyler play with Hadelyn Reid and Wesley Cox before lunch in TCTC’s Early Childhood Education program.

On Tuesday, TCTC students worked in the school’s state-licensed on-site preschool with children aged 4 and 5. Students supervised the kids while they played with clay or helped them with Valentine’s Day projects.

By getting hands-on with the children, students learn how to teach them at a developmentally appropriate level, said Ashely Chilton, instructor for the early childhood program.

“We get these children prepared for preschool, especially at this age,” she said. “The social skills – just the learning to be away from mom and dad for a couple hours, just to get them ready for kindergarten.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a “huge demand” for early childhood educators as more people work from home, Chilton said. “People need a place to take their children. And they want a place to take their children to get them prepared for kindergarten and get them the social skills they need at such a young age,” she said.

The program also prepares students to earn their Child Development Associate credential, which benefits students looking to enter the workforce after high school, Chilton noted.

“Preschools want to hire people with the CDA,” she said. “So they will get jobs a lot easier and they will get paid a little bit more money.”

Most of the students in the auto collision technology department are already working local jobs, including three seniors and two juniors, said Bradley Ronyak, instructor. Demand is high for his students. In the last month, three local collision shops have contacted Ronyak looking for students, saying “we’ll take whatever you have,” he said.

Those shops have said they will even provide on-the-job training for students on things they don’t know yet.

“If you’re just looking to get a job, this is where it’s at because they’re just pounding down my door looking for recruits,” Ronyak said.

Like the other programs, the auto collision technology program teaches students skills beyond what they’ll need for the work. While the program focuses on vehicle body work and design, it provides students with a “wealth of knowledge,” including welding, plastic repair, painting, metal fabrication and body work, as well as some mechanical work, such as steering, diagnostics and suspension.

“We have to know the ins and the outs of a vehicle,” Ronyak says. “We have to be able to do almost A through Z.”

For her personal project in the auto collision technology program, Viola McClimans has taken apart her motorcycle to repaint it, powder-coat the wheels and will reassemble it.

Viola McClimans, a senior at Girard High School, already works Sicilian’s Auto Body in Girard, and plans to attend college after she graduates high school. She says she wants to deepen her knowledge on painting and airbrushing, then eventually open her own business doing custom work on vehicles.

“If you like working on cars and you want to make them look nice and professional, this is a good industry to get in,” McClimans said.

For now, McClimans busies herself with a personal project she started before December. She’s completely taken apart her own motorcycle to customize it and looks to have it finished and put back together before school ends.

“I’m painting the bike black to match the red frame, and then I’m getting the wheels powder-coated black,” she said. “It’s just a fun project.”