High School Students Get Hands-on Look at Jobs at Manufacturing Day

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Emily Phelps looked over at the Fanuc robotic arm functioning at The Brilex Group of Companies’ booth at Friday’s Manufacturing Day event at the Youngstown State University Excellence Training Center.

Phelps, a sophomore at Mahoning County Career and Technical Center, would like to design something and build products. She’s looking to go to YSU after high school and take advantage of their educational opportunities. For now, though, the high school student was intrigued by Friday’s swath of employers. 

“It’s really interesting to hear about all the types of things we can go into,” Phelps said.

The event, hosted by the YSU College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and Eastern Gateway Community College, had representatives from manufacturing-related companies speaking to the 135 high school students there along with performing hands-on activities and demonstrations.

David Sipusic, executive director of the Excellence Training Center, said there are a lot of opportunities for these students as they move forward and develop their interests.

“On Manufacturing Day, of course, we’re highlighting manufacturing here in the Valley,” he said. “So to get to our roots, our DNA, manufacturing, and then to keep our young students and young learners engaged in that it is critical.”

Jackson Douty, a sophomore at MCCTC, said he’s intrigued by electrical engineering. It was trips to his dad’s job at Foerster Instruments Inc. in Salem that spurred his interest.

“I wanted to learn how to control all these [machines] and teach someone,” Douty said. “This isn’t going to stop in 30 some years. It’s going to keep on going.”

Ultium Cells LLC has upward of 100 employees, but is eventually looking to have 1,300 on site when the plant opens in August or September of 2022, said Chris Allen, the company’s human resource manager.

For the high school students, Ultium Cells is offering production associate positions working on the plant’s floor. Those interested can take a 42-hour workforce accelerator program at YSU paid for through grants. 

“It’s called battery cell operator training to get them trained up to prepare to get a job with us,” Allen said. “It’s very centric to what we’re looking for as far as math skills, chemistry, things like that, to make them more aware of what they encounter with working in the plant.”

Those employed by Ultium Cells can receive up to $8,000 per year tuition reimbursement toward a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Allen adds there were 10 interns this past summer, with 85% coming from YSU. Those interested in applying for an internship or job can click HERE.

Ultium Cells has a big push to keep employees here in the Mahoning Valley – either hourly or salary – Allen said, with  electrical or chemical engineers, who have a college degree, starting between $53,000 and $56,000.

Hourly employees should be “great troubleshooters, work independently – doing things on their own with minimal supervision,” he added.

Having those soft skills are important not just to Ultium Cells, but for most lines of work.

“It’s important that everybody work together to accomplish things,” Allen said. “We’re looking for people who have teamwork ability, be able to collaborate and work with different functional areas.”

Dearing Compressor and Pump Co. human resources coordinator Danielle Lanterman said her company is looking for some workers with drive and ambition, who may be mechanically inclined or have a love of welding. Entry-level welding jobs start at $12 to $15 an hour, but those with experience can start at $15 to $20 at the 200-person company.

Open positions include welders – pipe and structural – electrical assemblers, robotic welding machine operators, bracketing position for assembly and a setup position for assembly.

From its plant in Youngstown, Dearing Compressor packages natural gas compressors for the oil and gas industry, serving and installing for the industrial industry and a distributor for Gardner Denver equipment for the Youngstown, Pittsburgh and Cleveland area.

“We can train people if they have the background, the theory and the knowledge,” Lanterman said. “Trade schools such as MCCTC, [Columbiana County Career and Technical Center] and New Castle School of Trades can give these students the theory and the background. When they come for the on the job experience, we can train them on our processes and how to do all of that they learned at school.”

Brooke Waid, communications specialist at Ultium Cells, adds there is much more of a push for STEM-related education in the Mahoning Valley schools than when she graduated from Girard High School in 2016. Her first experience was a coding class while she was a marketing major at YSU.

“I can see that there’s such a push in high school students and I think it’s great,” she said. “I think that it’s truly impactful, and I wish that I knew more about STEM when I was in school.”

Sipusic said Friday’s event was an eye-opener for these students as they learned about what’s on the other side of their school-based learning once they acquire those skills.

“I can find a job opportunity that pays a really good wage and stay here in the Valley,” he said. “That’s critical. We want these young people to see that there is a way to stay here, find a good job and continue to build a family or build your career here in the Youngstown area.”

Pictured: Brilex Group’s Grace Stigliano shows South Range High School student Emily Phelps one of the Fanuc robotic arms the company uses.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.