YSU Aims to Recruit, Retain STEM Talent

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The expanding STEM field is creating more demand than there is supply of workers and Youngstown State University is trying to close the gap with local talent.

YSU’s College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics held its first National Technology Day Celebration Sept. 20. High school students came to Meshel Hall to meet with local companies to see how they employ people with degrees in computer science and information technology.

Students also learned about careers in computer science and IT through hands-on demonstrations and activities in areas such as programming, networking, security and gaming.

Emilie Brown, coordinator of STEM outreach and scholarships, said YSU wants to recruit students and help local companies to employ graduates. Students who take internships and co-ops here are more likely to stay here after graduation, he said.

“We want to further engage those who already have an interest and maybe spark an interest in those who haven’t considered [STEM] as a career field,” Brown said. “There is a very large need for people with a background in these areas, and it’s just growing. So, we want to make sure they know about all the opportunities.”

Ryan Geilhard, director of IT and information services at YSU, said the field is continuously expanding and more jobs are created as technological advancements are made.

Demand for workers “is growing every year,” Geilhard said. The IT field “is getting broader, which means there’s jobs being added that we didn’t foresee two or three years ago.”

Hunter Saltsman is a senior at YSU and an intern for the Ohio Department of Transportation. He said he found out about the internship at a STEM expo held by YSU. The East Liverpool native said he is “definitely interested” in pursuing a full-time job with ODOT, and he’s grateful for events that give students a chance to find similar opportunities.

“It’s a great working environment. I didn’t have a plan as far as where I’d be working when I started school. I was just keeping my options open,” Saltsman said. “There was a STEM expo last spring. I talked to ODOT there and things went well.”

Mike Lucas, IT manager for ODOT District 4, said IT plays an important role in the daily operations of ODOT – and throughout the event, he shared examples with students.

Ultium Cells also came to the event to speak to students about career opportunities. Chris Allen, HR manager at the Ultium Cells plant in Lordstown, said the company makes a point to hire local talent.

“We want kids to stay here and have a career and support their local communities and economy,” Allen said.

Allen said that over 90% of Ultium employees are local and the company recruits heavily from YSU as well as local high schools.

“We can take kids right out of high school and train them to work in the plant. It doesn’t require any previous experience,” he said.

Allen added that Ultium has multiple opportunities for IT positions, ranging from programming the machines to security. He said that IT and computer science roles are vital to plant operations.

“The building itself is all automated. So it requires that people – even if they’re not in IT – that they have some kind of IT background or comfortability working in that environment,” Allen said.

Front: Boardman High School juniors Logan Rosko, left, and Dominic Kalbasky. Back: ODOT intern Hunter Saltsman, left, and ODOT District 4 IT manager Mike Lucas.