Brain Gain Navigators Launches This Week

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — With field trips and in-person events postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, school districts are challenged to bring career exploration opportunities to their students.

In an effort to provide those opportunities virtually, The Business Journal is launching its Brain Gain Navigators program this week in partnership with Junior Achievement of Mahoning Valley and members of the Brain Gain Coalition. Students from area schools, particularly those who participate in mentorship groups, will have a chance to hear about local jobs in growing industries from the employers and employees who work them.

The Mahoning County Educational Service Center is also a key partner in helping to organize students to attend the on going series.

“Brain Gain is all about raising awareness of local career pathways to the next generation’s workforce to show our best and brightest that there are plenty of ways to make a comfortable living locally,” says Jeremy Lydic, content manager for The Business Journal. “We wanted to give students and their mentors a snapshot of what we’ve found is in strong demand in the area, and what it takes to work those jobs.”

The first Navigators event is scheduled for Feb. 17 and will focus on the auto tech trade, featuring Sweeney Chevrolet in Boardman and the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center. The event is being hosted using Junior Achievement’s JA Inspire Virtual platform, which students and their mentors can access from any device with internet.

“We are excited JA Inspire Virtual will now be part of the Business Journal Brain Gain Navigators program, on-demand virtual tours with local employers covering a wide range of industries to give more students the best possible snapshot of career pathways and job outlooks right here at home,” says Michele Merkel, Junior Achievement of Mahoning Valley president.

Not all students receive career mentorship at home, Merkel says. In other cases, career exploration happens too late in a child’s school career and by the time a career path as been decided, class choices can cause career goals to be unrealistic.

The JA Inspire Virtual platform provides students an opportunity to learn about careers from local businesses, colleges, institutes, apprenticeship programs, trade schools and internships, “so once a student is ‘inspired,’ they can gather the information they need to achieve their goals,” she says.

“Going virtual has allowed us to reach more students with our programs, and there are no restrictions geographically, building capacity, or even bus schedules, so we’re able to reach not just inner city and suburban but rural areas as well, and students also have the option for asynchronous learning and explore different avenues,” Merkel says. “For businesses, this is a chance to build their future workforce.”

Those attending the event will view a video tour of both locations before having an opportunity to speak with representatives from each.

In the video, participants will hear from MCCTC students and principal Matt Campbell about the auto tech program there and what incoming enrollees can expect to learn. Sweeney techs and shop foreman Nick Deniakis discuss what the job is like and offer some insight into what the future of the auto tech profession will look like.

“It’s a lot more of a cleaner job anymore,” says Alex Charnesky, service technician at Sweeney. “A lot of computer work.”

After the video, students will hear from guest panelists, including Deniakis and a representative of MCCTC. Panelists will also be available for a question-and-answer session with the students.

A virtual follow-up conversation with some of the students who attended will be hosted after the event. Feedback from that conversation and insights from the guest panelists will be presented in a feature-length article in the March edition of The Business Journal.

The story and video interviews will also be published to

The event is only open to the students and mentors who have registered. If you would like to register your mentorship group for future Navigators events, contact Jeremy Lydic at [email protected]. The Business Journal plans to organize 10 total throughout the year, one event held monthly.

If students are unable to attend the live event, they can still access the JA Inspire Virtual platform to watch the tour video and recorded presentation video by navigating to either the Sweeney Chevrolet or MCCTC virtual exhibitor booths.

Pictured: MCCTC student Jonathon Figley working on a motor in the Auto Tech lab.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.