Husted Praises Industry 4.0 Programs at Brookfield School

BROOKFIELD, Ohio – A robotic dog prances in the Industry 4.0 classroom and a robotic arm swiftly operates functions, all under the control of Ryland Mihalcin, a Brookfield High School freshman.

Mihalcin’s excitement in operating the robotic equipment in the lab has led him to consider his future already. His excitement also led to him being one of the students demonstrating for Lt. Gov. Jon Husted some of the equipment in the lab, which is housed in the school library.

After learning just how much he likes working with robotics, Mihalcin said he is considering starting his career in the field and then, hopefully, a company will help him pay for college. He has demonstrated the equipment to interested parties from about a dozen companies, who he said later expressed an interest in having him come to work for them.

“That’s crazy,” Mihalcin said, adding that these companies can offer $60,000 starting salaries.

“I get to see his excitement,” said his father, Derek Mihalcin, a school board member. “Every new thing that happens that they do, he talks about it. This isn’t something he leaves at school. This is part of who he is now.”

Through the program, his father said Ryland went from being unsure about what he wants to do in the future to certitude. The family is in the process of arranging a tour of a robotics plant for Ryland, his dad said. But he is hopeful it is something the school can do, too, so the students can see more job opportunities where they can use their new skills.

Ryland Mihalcin, a freshman at Brookfield High School, speaks with Lt. Gov. Jon Husted about the robotics in the Industry 4.0 lab at his school.

“A lot of students don’t know what’s out there unless their schools are actively engaged in helping them see these pathways, and that’s what’s happening here,” Husted said.

In addition to the Industry 4.0 lab, Husted also got a chance to see Brookfield’s Maker Space lab and a building trades classroom, where students were busily creating wood projects. 

Husted was visiting the high school to celebrate In-Demand Jobs Week. Part of his message was a new Finding Your Pathway video, aimed at teaching students entering high school about some of their options regarding a career in technical education, pre-apprenticeships, industry-recognized credentials and the College Credit Plus program.

Husted said In-Demand Job Week is about teaching people where the jobs are at and in what fields, as well as how to get the career skills to get those jobs.

“We’re creating more jobs than we have people to fill right now in the Mahoning Valley and around Ohio,” Husted said. “We need more talent. We need more people to learn these skills so they can take advantage of the great opportunities throughout the state.”

Husted said he believes more students should be taking advantage of career tech education, although career centers are filling up and there are waiting lists for some programs. One solution is having programs like the one in Brookfield, where students can start with career-based programs earlier, earning industry credentials and continuing to attend their home high school.

“We’ve asked the General Assembly to give us $300 million to expand our career centers and to equip them with all the modern technology of robotics, pneumatics, health care, health tech, cyber security, whatever you can think of. Our career tech centers are helping people, as I say, graduate on Saturday, go to work on Monday and have great careers, and also in many cases earn college credits along the way.”

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, left, talks about the Youngstown State University Excellence Training Center with Brett Carsone, a junior at Brookfield High School, after learning Carsone is interested in attending YSU.

Husted believes businesses and manufacturing need to join forces with career tech and high school programs, like the one in Brookfield, to provide the equipment students need to learn how to use.

Gary Hartman, from the Builders Association of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, said the skilled trades in this area need about 800 more people, and that is going to only increase as people retire. 

Husted said the working age workforce is shrinking, and so it is imperative no students are left behind from having skills. He further noted it is not just the U.S., but many industrialized countries have the same problem.

“We’re going in the right direction,” Husted said. “We just have to go faster and with a larger volume. We don’t want a single child to not graduate high school with a career credential.”

Superintendent Toby Gibson said students know only what they see at home and through family and friends. The K-12 career-based STEM program at Brookfield is geared toward providing students with hands-on activities and career clusters so they have already been exposed to a lot of opportunities before they enroll in their first high school classes.

Gibson said the school talks about the three E’s: enroll, enlist and employed. The students who want to be employed can become more employable through these programs.

Some of those students are not even waiting until they graduate to start working in an industry.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, left, speaks with Toby Gibson, Brookfield superintendent, and Kristen Foster, director of Teaching and Learning.

Jack Nicholas, 16, said he is already working with Kirila Fire Training Facilities, which manufactures fire equipment. Nicholas has his scuba certification and plans to study welding at the Trumbull County Career and Technical Center next year. He wants to do underwater welding.

Another student, Ian Reichart, was introduced to excavation work through a neighbor, who owns a company that puts in gas lines. He now has a job with the company.

“I enjoy being hands-on,” Reichart said. “I’m good in the classroom, but I also enjoy being hands-on.”

“That’s been a hidden pleasure in the last year,” Gibson said of the students’ gaining real work experience. “Industry 4.0 – this is the first year for it, so it’s continuing to grow. And seeing kids, they’re coming through the door with a smile on their face and a bounce in their step, and they’re looking forward to being here and taking part in these opportunities.”

Building trades has about 70 students and a waiting list. Industry 4.0 is maxed out at 18 right now.

“Toby had a vision, and we see it now,” said Ronda Bonekovic, who is a member of both the Brookfield school board and the Trumbull County Technical Center board, where programs are maxed out. “We’re excited for more visions.”

Robert Eggleston, coordinator of career counseling at the Educational Service Center of Eastern Ohio, said Brookfield had none of its seven programs about five years ago and has been able to build them.

Eggleston said the great thing about his job is helping schools like Brookfield create and grow these programs. Brookfield has a building trades construction program, the Industry 4.0, programming for engineering, a maker space, a hospitality and tourism pathway, law and public safety, business marketing and finance, and is planning to take part in the information technology career apprenticeship program launching next year in connection with YSU.

“[Brookfield is] so open to adapting to the 21st century,” Eggleston said. “They want to have something for every student … and that’s the best thing about this school.”

Pictured at top: Troy Randall, left, a junior at Brookfield High School, speaks with Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, right, about equipment he is learning to use in the Industry 4.0 class taught by Josy Kirila, center.

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