Kids Career Fair Presents Workforce Options to Area Students

CANFIELD, Ohio — Sixth-grader Hunter Sheeler was intrigued by the kids-sized Chevy Silverado on display by Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC.

The dealership’s shop foreman Devon Smith demonstrated a series of snap-on circuits on the hood of the car. When properly put together, they would power the headlights. The display represented the future of electric vehicles.

It was one of many displays Sheeler viewed at Saturday’s Kids Career Fair at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center. 

Nearly 1,000 people visited and spoke with representatives from more than 40 area businesses, as well as and MCCTC and Valley STEM-ME2 Academy during the event. Booths and displays were laid out throughout the school to spur imagination, education and future workforce development. MCCTC partnered with City Machine Technologies Inc. and Oh Wow! The Roger and Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology to present the event.

Hunter, who wants to learn about game design engineering, says events like the Kids Career Fair can put kids on the right track. 

“If they don’t already know what they’re going to do, there’s a bunch of things here that could help you decide,” he said.

Sweeney President Alexa Sweeney Blackann said her display was to show the children the future of electric vehicles and the type of jobs available as the industry moves away from gasoline-fueled engine repair and traditional car maintenance. Sweeney works with MCCTC’s automotive technology program and her company pays for a two-year associate degree at Stark State College near Canton.

She was pleased with Saturday’s turnout and learning what is important to these young people.

“What interests you?” Sweeney said. “Was this a hit? Do you want to play with tools? How we talk to young people in the future about the opportunities is really important.”

Sheeler’s mother, Ivy, said when she was her son’s age, these events were not available and the push was to go to college. 

“I remember when I was growing up, I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Ivy said. “Nobody knew what engineering was. They just knew it was a lot of math. You couldn’t connect what you were studying to what was actually happening in the real world.

“This is really good for the kids.”

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Gallery images include Sweeney’s Devon Smith discussing the electric vehicle display with Ivy and Hunter Sheeler; Chris, Adam and Austin Wentz; MCCTC’s Jessica Cene; Krista Shuff and Mollie Crowe of Forty Two Event Production; overhead shot of the Kids Career Fair; Tri County Tower’s Jacob Giesy and Elyssa Thomas; Thomas Quintavalle of Winner Aviation; George Brown and Shawn Toy of the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program and Diane Less of Angels for Animals.

Sixth-grader Austin Wentz said the event presented him with options of what his future could look like and possibly find his dream job. 

“It can show them their career path,” Wentz said. “You can explore options for what you want to do. Even though it might not be your favorite thing, it could be your favorite thing if you get used to it.”

His father, Chris, said children have plenty of ideas stemming from TV shows or movies, but events like these give them a real-world perspective.

“Being able to speak to someone who climbs radio towers every day, repairs aircraft engines, the police and what they do and what they encounter adds some realism to it,” Chris Wentz said. “It gives them the opportunity to see that everyday person in that role – takes that screen disconnect away from them.”

Austin Wentz and his younger brother, Adam, who is in third grade, learned about spackling, climbing towers, production programs, aviation, the medical field, police work and other careers. Adam was intrigued by an old Cessna airplane instrument panel on display by Winner Aviation.

“It was cool how the switches can do a lot of things,” he said.

Thomas Quintavalle, parts manager and community outreach coordinator for Winner Aviation, demonstrated how to use the instrument panel, as well as weather and radar processing units.

Quintavalle has been reaching out to the science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs in the area to bring their students up to the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport to see what they do, he said.

“The goal is to promote STEM within the area and let people know you don’t have to leave the Trumbull, Mahoning County area if you want to further yourself,” said Quintavalle of his business, which does maintenance, repair and overall of different airplanes.

Jessica Cene, marketing and enrollment coordinator at MCCTC, said hands-on career fairs give kids a chance to try their hand at working with drywall, cooking, painting nails, simulating welding and much more. She brought her own children to the event, showing them the possibilities. 

“I think that’s what sparks the kids’ interest early, rather than waiting until the high school years and then diving into it,” she said. “I support college, but you can make a really good living with some of these trades. I think kids need to know that while growing up.”

Krista Shuff, a project manager at Forty Two Event Production, Boardman, had a lighting board on display that kids could manipulate to change the color and rhythm of three wireless lights. Forty Two prepares audio and visual installation, lighting, sound, staging, structural elements and video production for events at the Covelli Centre, Canfield Fair, The Youngstown Foundation Amphitheater and other venues.

“They can put two and two together with what you see at the concert and this is what you’re doing here,” Shuff said. 

People interested in this line of work learn about theatrical and entertainment lighting or being a recording engineer, she said. Those who enjoy construction or electrical work are welcome as well.

At the display for the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program, Executive Director George Brown and Shawn Toy, education and workforce development manager, showed attendees how to make their own lip balm, a byproduct of oil production from Ohio. Brown said there are more than 75 career fields in the state’s oil and gas industry with an average salary of $80,000 a year – $30,000 above the average of other professions.

“We’re here promoting Ohio-made energy. [We] have a cool STEM exhibit that’s hands-on for kids and we’re talking about the curriculum and the jobs we offer as an organization,” Brown said. 

Angels for Animals Founder Diane Less says she works with MCCTC and Columbiana County Career and Technical Center in their veterinary assistant programs. Angels also partners with Eastern Gateway Community College’s veterinary technician program, along with Kent State University and Youngstown State University’s pre-veterinary programs.

Elementary and middle school students who have a passion for being around animals can come to Angels for Animals to volunteer by working with the sheltered cats when they are 12 years old and the dogs when they are 16.

“If they want to get involved with animals, this is the place to come and get involved,” Less said.

Tri County Towers in North Jackson installs and maintains towers, along with antennas and satellite dishes. Safety Director Jake Giesy let students try on a harness with all the weighted gear needed to climb the towers. He demonstrated the tools, ropes and knots needed in their industry.

“It’s important to visualize different trades and things they can go into,” Giesy said. “There’s a lot of different trades. There’s union, programming, drywall, metal work, HVAC [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] and tower work.There’s so many different things these kids can learn how to do and get eyes on at a young age.”

Pictured at top: Lynnette Seebacher, STEM teacher at the Valley STEM+ME2 Academy, helps Lucas Lowery control an electronic bowling ball to knock down pins at the Kids Career Fair at MCCTC.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.