Career Event Gives Trumbull Students New Perspectives

NILES, Ohio — For Emily Holloway, her journey from high school to working for one of the world’s largest technology companies was anything but a straight path.

After graduating from Niles McKinley High School in 2010, she found herself taking internships at a number of organizations, including Independence LED – a commercial lighting provider in Pennsylvania – The Walt Disney Co. and the supply chain team at Walmart.

After earning her bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Ohio State University in 2015, she moved to Seattle for three years, taking a job with Microsoft. Though not directly related to her degree, her experience lent itself to her current position as a data and artificial intelligence consultant with the company. Some of her clients include Walmart, PepsiCo Inc., Coca-Cola Co., California-based wineries and the U.S. Air Force.

Holloway shared her story with students during Tuesday’s inaugural Junior Achievement College, Career and Trades Conference at the Eastwood Mall Complex. During her presentation to some 40 Trumbull County high school students, Holloway told them anyone of them can get to where she is through hard work and determination.

“If I’m a kid from Niles and I can make it there, there’s no child here attending the event today that can’t do exactly what I did,” she said. “There’s so many different routes you can take.”

Emily Holloway shares her story with students during the conference.

Because her job allows her to work remotely, Holloway moved back home last year and pursued a master’s degree in business analytics, which she earned from the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business this past May.

Holloway’s message struck a chord with Haya Farhan, a senior at McDonald High School. The 17-year-old wants to go to medical school for nursing and said the idea of a nontraditional path to a career gave her a new perspective on other career opportunities that don’t necessarily require the typical four-year college degree, she said.

“I was always taught just go to college, school and find a good job,” Farhan said. “I did like how [Holloway] sort of explained it instead of just us knowing it in the back of our heads. It’s nice to just hear it and see proof.”

Farhan was one of some 3,000 high school students from 21 Trumbull County school districts attending the conference. The day-long event, which included an evening session for parents and the public, was held in partnership with Junior Achievement of Mahoning Valley and the Trumbull County Educational Service Center.

The idea came from conversations with guidance counselors last year who wanted an event to showcase colleges and universities alongside business owners and the skilled trades “so all of the students could come to one spot and just visit everybody,” said Denise Holloway, supervisor for the Trumbull Student Assistance Consortium at the ESC, and Emily Holloway’s mother.

The event was held in the former Sears at the Eastwood Mall. Having it at a central location was ideal given the size of the county, Denise Holloway said. Even then, some of the schools are still more than 30 miles away from the mall.

“So, sometimes kids out in those rural areas don’t necessarily make it into attend these type of events,” she said. “But if we can partner with our schools and we can have that collaboration with one event where we can bring as many students in, that’s our goal.”

Through the event, students and representatives of the various organizations can have real discussions about what’s available in the region, Holloway said. The conference hosted 87 vendors, including regional and statewide universities, colleges, skilled trades, employers, and even some businesses at the Eastwood Mall who came in to talk with students, she said.

By connecting with representatives, students can get a better idea of what fits them and their future, Holloway said. Not all students are college-bound, she said, which is why the ESC and Junior Achievement wanted to create a forum to expose students to other career pathways and what’s available in the regional workforce so they can be successful.

Angela Johnson, White Glove Payroll and HD Davis CPAs talks to students about accounting careers.

“We just want to make the most of our time for our kids,” she said. “This is just a great opportunity and I think we’re very fortunate that all the collaboration happened between our schools, the businesses, the Eastwood Mall and their team.”

Maddy Howard, 17, McDonald High School, said she enjoyed the job fair and liked the variety of colleges and career options that were represented. Howard wants to go to college, but isn’t sure what she plans to major in, she said.

“As long as you are passionate about what you do and you really like what you do, then that’s all that matters. Whatever makes you happy,” she said.

Brandon Baird, a sophomore at Lordstown High School, said he plans to study HVAC service at the Trumbull Career & Technical Center after graduation, then plans to enlist in the U.S. Marines before pursuing college.

“I’ve been thinking it out quite a few years now,” he said. “This is what I want to do with my life.”

In addition to enjoying work, Baird said making money is important to him, “because that’s what this world revolves around. Without it you have nothing.”

Michael Hanschaw, superintendent of the Trumbull County ESC, said the event provides a good one-on-one connection between students, educators and the trades, which is one step in combating the brain drain that has students leaving the area for post-secondary education and work.

“It’s very important that we try to keep our kids here,” he said. “We have a very good area here. We’d like to keep those kids here and get involved and start businesses, attend colleges here and give back to their community.”

The goal of the event is all about career exploration for the students, said Michele Merkel, Junior Achievement president. In addition to meeting with vendors, students could sit in on four workshops every 30 minutes — two workshops were geared toward college, and the other two are work-readiness.

Junior Achievement works with thousands of students annually to create pathways for students to pursue their interests and connect them with employers and other organizations, Merkel said. However, a lack of awareness of regional job opportunities makes that a challenge, she said.

In an effort to address that challenge, Junior Achievement hopes to take what they learn about the students’ interests and connect to school counselors with the information, she said.

In addition, the organization has published a career guidebook with information on the 16 career clusters that are specific to Ohio. The guidebook includes information on college degrees, as well as training opportunities for jobs that don’t require a college degree. It also shows average wages and salaries for those jobs. Health care, manufacturing and agriculture are the three most prominent career clusters in the Mahoning Valley, she said.

“By doing a lot of career exploration and a lot of connections, this gives students the advantage to make those decisions to be successful where they are at now – in middle and high school – to planning their future careers,” Merkel said.

More than 3,000 Trumbull County high school students attended workshops and met with 80-plus vendors during the first annual Junior Achievement College, Career and Trades Conference.

Claudia Kovach, corporate secretary and vice president at City Machine Technologies, said she attended the event to talk to students about careers as machinists and mechanics. She was looking for students who are mechanically included and who spend their time “fixing their dirt bikes, doing [demolition] derby work, that kind of stuff and playing with cars,” she said.

The biggest challenge Kovach faces is that students are typically pushed toward college, she said, “and I think that’s really sad that we have a lot of good opportunity, especially in Mahoning Valley, where you roll up your sleeves and you put in a good day’s work, and there’s a lot of opportunities for skilled trades.”

City Machine currently has openings for about 10 machinists and mechanics, she noted.

“There’s a lot of good opportunities if you don’t want to go to college and write English papers,” she said.

There is also plenty of need for workers in the regional health-care industry, said Regina Callion, owner of Remar Review in Warren. A registered nurse by trade, Callion started the nurse education company more than a decade ago and helps more than 300,000 international and domestic nurses annually pass their nursing exit exams, she said.

“The No. 1 need in the health-care profession is nurses,” she said. “It is the fastest growing and most in-demand field in medicine. We’re trying to close the gap of the nursing shortage by bringing nurses right from our own hometown into the profession.”

Callion attended the event to make connections with local schools and health-care providers in an effort to meet local nursing needs, she said. When speaking with students, some who were interested in the nursing field didn’t know where to find help getting started, she said.

“We’re homegrown, we’re right here in the Mahoning Valley,” she said. “We love to help our international nurses, but we’d love to see Ohio nurses do better here.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.