Job-Seekers Hunt for Flexibility at Ohio To Work Job Fair

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – Melicia White went from business to business, going beyond the job description for the some 30 job-seekers she represents for Compass Family and Community Services.

The employment specialist for Compass was among the 40 job-seekers and employment agency representatives attending an Ohio To Work Mahoning Valley hiring event Thursday, presented in partnership with the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition, Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, TeamNEO and JobsOhio. The five-hour event was held at Hollywood Gaming at the Mahoning Valley Race Course.

White and three of her Compass coworkers are trying to capitalize on the plethora of employment opportunities by finding good fits for their clients. They talked with employers about the workplace environment, flexibility with hours, thoughts on those with criminal histories, educational skill levels and much more. 

Getting from home to the workplace is the biggest challenge for White’s clients, she says. She’s encouraged by some employers’ flexibility with part-time positions and willingness to consider those with criminal histories on a case-by-case basis, as well as training offered by employers. 

White works with people of all ages and backgrounds with some having criminal histories, mental illness or other setbacks, she says. Employers are willing to have Compass provide a personal job trainer or do short-term stints such as an internship to get the client acclimated to a position.

“There’s a lot more flexibility that’s going to help with everyone being able to get in the door and find employment,” White says.

Timothy Yauger has a couple misdemeanors convictions from five years ago on his record, which he says has prevented him from being hired. During the job fair, he spoke with representatives from manufacturers such as Brilex Industries Inc., Ventra Salem and Vallourec, and hopes to find a company that provides good benefits, retirement options and an opportunity to grow professionally, he says.

“A lot of the guys I talked to today said they’re willing to work with me on it because they know everybody has a past,” Yauger says. “I found a couple of promising jobs that I feel like I’m going to be starting here real soon.”

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Gallery images include Wasilwa Mwonyonyi and John-Michael Oliver from the National Center for Urban Solutions, Kristy Gore and Barbara Lorenzini from Mercy Health, job-seeker Timothy Yauger, MVMC’s Julie Michael Smith, Tadarrelle Lett of Youngstown Area Goodwill Industries, and Phyllis Santangelo from General Extrusions.

The Ohio To Work initiative is a statewide project that was developed by JobsOhio, the state’s private economic development agency, as a way to connect job seekers to companies seeking employees. On Dec. 9, there were 30 organizations represented at the job fair.

“We know the past several years it’s been a challenge for companies to attract job seekers,” says Julie Michael Smith, MVMC project manager. “Here in the Mahoning Valley almost every company is looking for employees.”

Similar events in Columbus typically draw some 70 job-seekers, she notes.

“The Ohio to Work initiative focuses on those industries that are offering employment opportunities for individuals that are well-paying positions, offer a career path and opportunity for advancement. So we’re specifically focusing on manufacturing, health care and technology-related jobs within the Ohio to Work initiative,” Smith says.

Those who missed this event or want to learn more about the Ohio to Work initiative can visit and select Mahoning Valley. There are more hiring events planned for 2022.

Bridging the disconnect between employers and job seekers

Smith says the labor market and landscape have changed where job-seekers today want flexible scheduling, remote work environments and other amenities. They are interested in workplace culture, she says.

“Companies are adjusting to how they position themselves, meet those expectations and share those to individuals,” she says. “From the employer side, it’s been increasingly difficult to reach job seekers and let them know of the different opportunities.”

Billboards, media advertising and sign-on bonuses are ways companies try to attract prospective employees. 

Smith says this event was promoted through the Youngstown City Schools robocall to get the attention of parents and caregivers as well. She spoke to the school district’s parent engagement staff members to contact those parties, reaching out through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media to engage prospective employees.

“We really have to be creative in how we reach out to individuals and learn more about where they’re getting their information,” Smith says. 

Representatives from the National Center for Urban Solutions go door-to-door in neighborhoods, churches, council meetings, barber shops, convenience stores or wherever people gather to spread the word about employment opportunities. 

Wasilwa Mwonyonyi, career development coordinator and business developer for the organization, says he wants his organization to be a familiar resource for everybody – everything from education, health and wellness to workforce opportunities. He says there needs to be more in-person events like the Ohio to Work job fair.

The National Center for Urban Solutions partners with MVMC, ClarkDietrich Building Systems LLC and Pennex Aluminum Co. 

“We do more intentional outreach for them, and actually build a workforce through an untapped workforce,” Mywonyoni says. “That’s reaching some of the underserved community members that we have.

“Six months from now, we hope to have saturated Columbiana, Trumbull and Mahoning counties, that everybody knows that we’re here and we’re hiring.”’

Tadarrelle Lett, Youngstown Area Goodwill Industries career services manager, says his organization helps job-seekers with soft skills, resume development, interviewing, job placement services and career coaching. 

“We can create a holistic approach to client development,” he says.

Exploring the job market

General Extrusions Inc. is hiring 12- to 15 in general labor, and is willing to train people starting at $17 an hour at its union shop – along with a shift differential of $0.30 more an hour for those on afternoon or midnight shifts. About 40% of the management at the Youngstown-based company with 135 employees started in general labor.

“We’re not having as big of a problem getting them in as we are retaining them,” says Phyllis Santangelo, General Extrusions director of human resources. “This is not a job. This is a career.”

Mercy Health nurse recruiter Barbara Lorenzini says the hospital system needs additional support for the nursing units because the current staff is overwhelmed. 

She says Mercy Health offers increased wages and multiple sign-on bonuses for different areas. Nurses coming out of colleges are offered $1,000 bonuses, while those with at least a year’s experience in emergency, medical surgery and labor and delivery can receive a $10,000 bonus.

Job fairs like this help spread the word about employment opportunities.

“Even if we get one excellent candidate, that’s a win,” Lorenzini says.

Pictured at top: Melicia White, employment specialist at Compass Family and Community Services visited with employers at Thursday’s Ohio To Work Mahoning Valley Hiring Event at Hollywood Gaming at the Mahoning Valley Race Course on behalf of her clients. 

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.