Career Centers Work with Business to Train Workers

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Brian Benyo, president of Brilex Industries Inc. in Youngstown, is among the many Mahoning Valley employers who rely on career and technical centers to turn out qualified employees. “The training provided through our local career centers and all the training programs in the Valley is vital,” remarks Benyo, whose companies require candidates to fill skilled labor for welding, machining, assembly and maintenance.

“The biggest need is a future wave of retirements that is coming pretty quickly. And without a pipeline of new, focused young people pursuing skilled trades, it’s going to make our businesses very challenging in the future,” he continues.

“The quality is improving,” Benyo adds. “There’s better quality candidates than in the past. Some of that’s a reflection of the programs having improved.”

Area career and technical centers train candidates to fill positions not only in manufacturing but in fields such as health care, customer service and offices as well.

At Trumbull Career and Technical Center, the two most popular offerings are the machinist and auto service programs, reports Vicki Thompson, adult education director.

The auto service program, in its first year, is the only such program to offer auto service training in the area, Thompson says. “Every one of those students gets a job when they graduate because there’s such demand for auto service technicians,” she adds.

TCTC is enjoying similar success with placing students from its machining program, which was established at the urging of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition and local employers because of the shortage of machinists, she says. Because manufacturers wanted to see students in action, the 900-hour program, now in its third class, includes a 224-hour externship.

The newest adult program TCTC offers is exercise science, Thompson says. The adult program, which the center began offering in January, was established to take advantage of an exercise science lab.

“It allowed us to add what we consider a new medical program,” she says. Students who complete the program can sit for three credentials: certified personal trainer, corrective exercise specialist and fitness nutrition specialist. Students can go on to work in a fitness center, but the program also provides a “great foundation” to further their education and pursue a career in physical therapy or sports medicine.

The first group of students will complete the program this fall, she reports. “It won’t be offered again until January but we already have people who are interested in taking it,” she says.

TCTC is working to obtain approvals for welding as a full-time program in 2016 – it’s now part-time – because of the demand for welders, Thompson says.

Welding and machining are “definitely” among the most popular programs the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center in Canfield offers, affirms Kim Chaney, adult education supervisor.

“We have two of those programs that will be beginning in September,” she says. “Those are both definitely in-demand programs.” There are openings in both and financial aid is available for qualified applicants, she adds.

When students complete the training, they receive national certification “so they’re not limited to within the area if they decide to move out,” she says.

Among the other offerings at the center in Canfield are Microsoft Office, customer service, team building and certification in human resources, Chaney reports.

Changes in health care are driving demand for the medical assistant program, she notes. “There are changes coming up with the medical environment that require medical assistants to be certified [in] medical document management,” she says.

In addition to the standard programs, the center provides customized training, an option employers might not be aware of, she says. “We will sit down and meet with the employer, find out the specifics of what their employees need. Then we will tailor and design training,” she explains.

“We can do for one or 50 employees. Group size does not matter,” although the training is more cost-effective if the employer has more employees in need of training, she acknowledges. Training can be given either at the career center or the business site. “They don’t have to go to Cleveland or Pittsburgh for quality training,” she remarks.

In October, the Columbiana County Career & Technical Center will again offer precision machining, a program the center hasn’t offered in several years, reports Terry Hutson, assistant director of adult education.

“The Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition requested that all of the career centers do it because there is such a need,” Hutson says.

Precision machining requires “some pretty good measuring and mathematical abilities, and those are hard to come by,” she adds. “People get scared off.”

The career center has “excellent instructors,” she says, and high-paying jobs in the field are abundant. “So they should at least give themselves the option to give it a try,” she says.

Demand for welders is “overwhelming,” Hutson reports, although she couldn’t say whether that results from activity related to the oil and gas industry. “We have a lot of local places hiring those students,” she says, “so jobs are plentiful.”

Practical nursing is another in-demand program at the center where it’s one of the two most popular programs, she says.

“I’ve always felt nursing students climb the ladder,” she continues, often starting as a state-tested nurse’s aide and advancing from there. “You can climb and you get credit for everything you do along the way,” Hutson adds.

The Columbiana center revised one of its programs, the patient-care technician program, strengthening the requirements to create the certified clinical medical assistant program. “We also started offering medical office technology,” she says to help medical offices meet new electronic medical records requirements.

Several of the career centers are offering a six-week introduction to manufacturing programs.

Upon completion, students have received training and career coaching to help them determine the occupation best for them, says Jessica Borza, executive director of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition and sector partnership coordinator for the Oh-Penn Manufacturing Collaborative.

“Plus they get actual credentials that are marketable,” she says. “They can go on and get a job straight out of this program” or go on for additional training.

The next cohort of students will go through the program at Choffin Career Center in Youngstown, she says.

“About 16 students will be completing the program by mid- to late September and we have another 20 who are interested in starting after Labor Day,” says Sara Hunt, Oh-Penn career pathways sector coordinator.

Several participants in the program, which began last November, “have been hired on the spot at these interviews that we coordinate at the end of the program,” she reports.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.