They’re Making a Difference to Gain Brains in the Mahoning Valley

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – In the nearly two years since The Business Journal launched our Brain Gain advocacy program, Brain GAINS are visible across the workforce development and entrepreneurship ecosystems.

We’re seeing more collaboration, more access to earn-while-you-learn training programs, more visibility for in-demand careers.

Throughout the region, the notion that our best and brightest must leave to find their future is being transformed by organizations and individuals through direct action, optimism and local opportunities.

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Partnerships Provide Insights for Local Trades

A “shotgun approach” to recruiting – including more social media and web-based efforts – is helping the building trades connect with more students, including those as young as sixth grade, says Gary Hartman, services director with The Builders Association of Eastern Ohio & Western Pennsylvania.

“We know attrition is going to be high over the next 10 years,” Hartman says. “That’s where playing the long game hopefully works out to keep those jobs filled.”

Partnering with educational service centers in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties provided The Builders insight into students’ interest and how to reach them, he says.

“We found out very quickly that there’s a lot of concern about college debt. That was at the forefront of students between the ages of 16 and 18,” he says.

And while benefits such as retirement and health care plans aren’t as important to students now, job stability and career advancement are, he says. This feedback helped The Builders adapt its messaging to students.

These efforts coincided with the launch of The Business Journal’s Brain Gain initiative in late 2019, according to Hartman. Feedback gained from student roundtable discussions with The Business Journal before the pandemic reinforced much of what The Builders was doing.

“It’s hard, when something works for so long and it stops working, to leave the core way of doing things and look for alternatives,” Hartman says. “[Brain Gain] was good at reaffirming that we need to look outside the box.”

Fall Enrollment Looks Promising at CCCTC

Enrollment for the fall 2021 semester looks promising at the  Columbiana County Career and Technical Center. The school has more than 250 new applicants for junior level programs, says director and assistant superintendent Jeremy Corbisello. 

“This is on par with trend numbers even though we are in a pandemic,” he says.

Welding, cosmetology, interactive multimedia and veterinarian tech programs are at capacity with 218 returning seniors, Corbisello says. CCCTC isn’t adding any new programs this fall.

The center’s Welding and Fabrication program is at capacity and more than 90% of students in its Precision Machining and Manufacturing program have earned National Institute of MetalWorking Skills credentials.

“Students in both of these programs have participated in pre-apprenticeships, apprenticeships and landed successful employment,” Corbisello says. “The adult machining program continues to provide training for local businesses including Butech Bliss, PHD Manufacturing Inc. and Compco.”

This year, nine precision machining students will receive a scholarship from a $17,000 award through the Gene Haas Foundation.

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MCCTC Enjoys High Placement Rates

Whether moving on to work, college or military, most students at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center are advancing their careers. Among graduating seniors, 95% are either placed in local jobs, move on to continue their education or enlist in the military, says Jessica Cene, marketing and job placement coordinator.

Even amid the challenges of the last 18 months, “Our students were finding jobs quicker and we were able to get them out in the workforce sooner,” Cene says.

Similarly, 98% of 10th grade students who complete their education with Valley STEM+ME2 Academy choose to continue their education at the career center rather than go back to their home schools. And based on the career exploration opportunities they receive throughout ninth and 10th grade, it’s a “justified decision,” Cene says. “They know that’s what they want to do.” 

Donations Sought for Dogg Apprentice Fund

The Jay Dogg Apprentice Fund was established this year by Mary Ann Wilson, dedicated to her son and IBEW Local 64 electrician Jason “Jay Dogg” Mullen, who died Jan. 24.

The award gives an electrician apprentice going into their second or third year $500 toward books and administration fees. Second-year apprentice Christopher Howard is the first recipient with the next being awarded in July 2022.

The fund has $12,000 with a goal of reaching $20,000, says IBEW Local 64 president Scott Satterlee. Those wanting to donate can contact the Community Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio.

Scholarship Benefits Minority Students

Nelda Sims, a retired high school principal and graduate of Youngstown State University, has launched the TJ and Annie Ruth Rushton Legacy Scholarship in honor of her parents.

Nelda Sims, a retired high school principal and graduate of Youngstown State University, has launched the TJ and Annie Ruth Rushton Legacy Scholarship in honor of her parents.

The one-year scholarship will be awarded annually to a minority student majoring in education at YSU. Applicants must have at least a 3.0 GPA. Preference will be given to first-generation college students and those from Youngstown.

TJ and Annie only had a fourth- and seventh-grade education, respectively, their daughter says. TJ was self-employed in hauling and construction services, and Annie worked in food service and housekeeping at a local hospital after raising their nine children. All of the Rushton children attended college or a trade school.

Donations can be made to the scholarship fund at YSUFoundation.org, or by sending a check to Youngstown Foundation 655 Wick Ave., Youngstown, 44502.

Pictured at top: Mary Ann Wilson holds a photo of her late son, Jason “Jay Dogg” Mullen.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.