Valley Employers Are Adapting Work Environments to Future Employees

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Faced with new hiring challenges, Mahoning Valley businesses are adapting and creating work environments better suited for applicants and current employees.

Ted Schmidt, regional president at PNC bank, said they have a very local model they deliver in the Youngstown market. He said that one of their primary goals is to identify the talent in the local area and encourage them to work in and remain a part of the community.

“We are really prepping our students for our internship program,” he said. “We are identifying students across all different disciplines … About 95% of our interns are offered full-time positions into what we call our development program.”

PNC was one of more than 50 businesses on hand Wednesday for the Meet the Employers Day at the Williamson College of Business Administration on Youngstown State University campus. The pandemic hasn’t substantially impacted the number of applicants at PNC, but Schmidt said the company is adapting to better fit the needs and desires of those applicants.

“[COVID] has really changed the work environment everywhere. Right now we are in a flexible arrangement where we really determined there were some positions that can work remotely, so we are going through that process now,” Schmidt said. “We are going to be flexible and continue to be flexible because that’s what our new hires are looking for and our existing employees too.”

Derek Slipkovich, a junior accounting major at YSU, said one of the main traits he is looking for in potential job opportunities is work-life balance. He hopes to find an internship that develops into a full-time career later on.

“That [work-life balance] is definitely important to me. Most people like me want to have a family and you don’t want to be at work all of the time,” he said. “I feel like you shouldn’t be at work more than at home.”

Slipkovich and other students interviewed by The Business Journal say that while they have enjoyed their time in Youngstown, a better opportunity elsewhere could pull them away. 

“Whatever the best opportunity that comes my way will be what I take,” Slipkovich said. “I actually do like it here in Youngstown, but if there is a better opportunity somewhere else, in another city, I would definitely take it.”

Javier Gonzalez Pla, a junior international student at YSU that majors in accounting, said being in Youngstown and talking to the companies in the area has been a good experience for him.

“I spoke with [PNC Bank] about how the future is, what’s going on with investments, banking and also the cryptocurrency,” he said. “Right now, everything is going virtual.”

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Gallery images include an overhead shot of the Meet the Employers event; Ted Schmidt and Ryan Pastor of PNC meeting with YSU junior Javier Gonzalez Pla; YSU senior Sophia Reider (center) meets with Reis Zandier and Nick Torres of Fitz Frames; and Chelsea Zielinski of Penske Truck Leasing talks with a student.

In addition to more adaptable environments, businesses are branching out to hire graduates with a wider range of backgrounds and majors. They’re also hiring juniors and seniors when appropriate.

Fitz Frames is looking for applicants with multiple talents and disciplines, said Reis Zandier, production manager. The Los Angeles-based additive manufacturer of eyeglass frames began operations in the Youngstown Business Incubator in 2019, and creates custom-fit glasses using 3D printing technology.

“Since we are a start-up company, we are going to be in need of everything from marketing, to [human resources], to sales – a little bit everything, even the STEM careers,” she said. “It is just as much business as it is STEM, so it’s kind of like bridging the gap between the two.”

Sophia Reider, a senior at YSU majoring in business administration with a specialization in Spanish language and culture, spoke with representatives from Fitz Frames at the event. She said the integration of modern technology is something that piqued her interest in the company. 

As the current generation of professionals grows older and companies bring in new people, Reider said she believes it is important for those businesses to be willing to work with new ideas.

“A lot of businesses right now are looking for marketing skills and they’re looking for people who aren’t afraid to communicate,” she said. “I am looking for companies that are malleable in the sense that they are willing to keep up with the changing times and maybe be receptive to new perspectives.”

Penske Truck Leasing is also looking to hire graduates with a varied background, said Chelsea Zielinski, district rental manager. The company is particularly interested in applicants who are driven and want to jumpstart a career for what they want to do in the world. 

“We are looking for people all over the place just because there is a lot of different types of people that can influence our business and impact it in a really awesome way,” she said. “Whether it’s in HR, operations, sales, maintenance roles – I mean there is so many different things that we offer and it’s all just about finding what you’re passionate about and being able to execute that in the best way possible.”

Companies are also expanding benefit programs for future employees.

Lisa Hird, human resources manager at AVI Foodsystems Inc. in Warren, said they are looking for hires to fill positions in several departments in locations across the United States. Hird said that while they are looking for certain traits in applicants, they are primarily looking for those exhibiting ambitions and people skills. AVI provides and training necessary to teach those applicants, Hird said.

“We offer exceptional benefits,” she said. “We are always looking to expand our benefits package too. We offer medical, dental, vision, a 401k with a company match, paid vacation time, paid holidays, sick paid time off and a flexible work environment.”

Pictured at top: Michelle Itts and Lisa Hird, AVI Food Systems Inc. director of accounts receivable and payable, and human resources manager, respectively, take a resume from Derek Slipkovich, a junior at YSU majoring in accounting.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.