This Year, Skilled Trades Day Is for Kids

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – When Claudia Kovach asks her 3-year-old what he wants to be when he grows up, she gets a variety of answers – an astronaut, a mechanic and sometimes, a Spiderman or Batman.

He has his own toolbox and although he is still young with a youngster’s ideas, Kovach believes it is important not to wait until middle school, as many schools do, before teaching children about careers in the skilled trades.

Put another way: Why wait until some careers are considered uncool by their middle or high school peers before children explore what it is?

Parents and their children can get the conversation started at Cheers to Beers and Careers, a family-friendly event that will take place May 3, from 4-7 p.m., at Penguin City Brewing. That day was chosen because it is National Skilled Trades Day.

“When you crack open a beer, you instantly make a friend and you have a lot to talk about. So we’re hoping that cracking open a beer among friends and different businesses will teach a lot about careers,” Kovach says.

National Skilled Trades Day was founded by Mahoning Valley resident Kovach in 2019. The celebration event is back in person this year after having to go remote for a few years because of the pandemic. Kovach says large companies across the country are starting to celebrate the day with their employees.

At the Youngstown event, adults will enjoy Penguin City brews at $1 off if they wear a skilled trades work uniform, and there will be other drink specials.

Children attending Cheers to Beers and Careers can dress up in a skilled trades work uniform and trick-or-treat in the brewery. Hynes Industries will sponsor a costume contest. Fun kid-friendly drink specials will be available, and M-7 Technologies will sponsor a kids’ dance party to top off the night.

Additionally, City Machine Technologies of Youngstown Inc., founded by Kovach’s father, Michael, has created a new free, downloadable toolbox-shaped kit for kids to learn more about tools while playing with Play-Doh.

Parents can also download and discuss the My Future Career coloring pages with their child. One even takes children through developing their first résumé.

Kovach points out even a small child who helps out at home should learn how their skills doing dishes, helping parents make repairs, make dinner or painting the house could translate into employment skills someday.

Kovach works as the corporate secretary at her father’s business, where she prescreens job applicants. Too many times, she says, she eliminates people for not having the required skills to be machinists and mechanics, which requires someone to be mechanically inclined and drug-free.

Even those who appear to have the skills sometimes do not even show up for the interview or first day of work.

City Machine Technologies serves medium-size and large industrial manufacturing and commercial companies, specializing in the manufacturing of lifting magnets and Babbit bearings as well as providing machining and maintenance services.

Michael Kovach, president of CMT, says if someone can turn a wrench the right way, speak polite English, be open to learning, stay away from drugs and off their cell phone while at work, he can teach them the skills for the machining trade. He believes
the decline in prospective employees can be directly linked to the lack of shop classes at many high schools today, although some are bringing it back.

“People can’t measure,” says Michael Kovach. “You have to visualize what you want to make or what you want to become or what you want to do. I think we’ve stolen that from our kids by taking [shop class]away from them.”

In the past, he says, interested high school students got summer jobs to clean around the shop, learned a few skills and got used to being in a machine shop. Some then came back later for full-time jobs after graduation.

According to Ohio’s National Federation of Independent Business, 66% of small businesses hire for positions requiring a state license or certificate, 42% hire for positions requiring skilled trades training, and 77% hire for positions that do not require a college degree.

 “There’s nothing wrong with the skilled trades,” the CMT president says, adding it can be a pathway to college. Kovach worked his way through college studying electrical engineering, and his son, who grew up working at the shop, earned a master’s in mechanical engineering.

With some older workers retiring during the pandemic, he currently has 20 openings at the shop.

CMT is not alone.

“Beer’s so cool, you would think that everybody would be flocking and wanting a job at Penguin City. Well, that’s not the case,” says Claudia Kovach. “It doesn’t matter in what occupation you are, whether it’s an industrial repair shop or beer, there’s a hiring problem.”

Kovach says there are messages that need to be imparted early to children, including that you need to be drug-free to have a good life and there are a lot of good careers that do not require a college education.

When children think about their career options, they often know what their parents do or they see people who are teachers, firefighters or doctors. However, Kovach believes students need to know there is so much more available.

“You could be a vet tech, HVAC technician, barber, hair stylist. You can be a medical assistant, a plumber, a phlebotomist. All these different careers are in your local community,” she says. “They will never be outsourced to India, China, someplace like that, because you are not going to fly someone in from China to get your hair cut.”

Kovach says she remembers when she was in school the feeling that skilled trade jobs were looked down upon and everybody was urged to go to college.

But she questions why that is better than working as a machinist, a mechanic, an HVAC technician or even a beer maker.

“I think the moral of the story is that you could have a very nice career in Youngstown and the surrounding community without the college debt,” she says. “That means you could get a house faster, you could get a boat or maybe a sports car – but without the college debt.”

Pictured at top: Claudia Kovach works with her father, Michael, at City Machine Technologies.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.