Job Fair Connects Employers with Local Talent

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — There is no shortage of job openings in the Mahoning Valley — an indicator that the forecasted recession is not yet on the horizon for the area.

Youngstown Works held its second job fair Tuesday afternoon, connecting hundreds of job seekers with dozens of local employers and education entities. Youngstown Works is a workforce development consortium of more than 20 local businesses, agencies and nonprofits that assist job seekers.

Gerri Jenkins, the founder of the consortium and executive director of MyPath Mahoning Valley, says connecting candidates with employers is especially important as the workforce begins to heal from the pandemic.

“I think that more and more people after the pandemic are trying to come back into the workforce, but they may not know how,” Jenkins said. “I think that this is a good way for them to meet directly with employers and see if there’s something that they can do.”

The consortium held its first job fair in March and brought it back this fall at the request of local employers. Job seekers had to pay a fee to register and attend the event unlike last year, but Jenkins said the event still sold out.

Volunteer Vicki Thompson, senior executive with Thompson P. Miller Associates, volunteered her time at both job fairs. Thompson acts as a liaison between job seekers and employers to ease the introduction.

“It’s a nice way to be able to introduce somebody in a soft way to the employer and ease them into it – it seems to help with the nervousness,” Thompson said.

Jenkins said job fairs have a host of benefits over the routine job application process. The now widely digital application process boils applicants down to their resumes, but with in-person recruiting, candidates give employers the full picture of who they are.

“It’s never a bad thing to have people interact face to face, and to develop that connection. That’s the best way to get in the door — it’s built-in networking,” Jenkins said. “It’s a real benefit to have that personal connection. Even today with Zoom and all that, it’s always better to look somebody in the eye and shake their hand and learn about them and talk to them personally.”

Jenkins said there is still a large need for employees in the Valley — a sign she said points to a healthy economy compared to the recession experts predict the U.S. will enter in the first quarter of 2023.

“There can be recessions happening in other places in the country, but not here. I believe the need [for workers] is increasing,” Jenkins said.


Employers from the healthcare, education, service and manufacturing sectors were invited to participate — all of which are considered in critical need on the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation list of in-demand jobs.

Paula Karas, associate recruiter for Mercy Health, says there are a plethora of job openings across the health care system.

From left: Kristy Gore, professional recruiter, and Paula Karas, associate recruiter for Mercy Health.

The top three in-demand positions in Northeast Ohio are personal and home health aides and registered nurses, according to the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation. There are 45,120 registered nurses employed in Northeast Ohio with 2,532 openings.

Karas says that Mercy Health is recovering from the pandemic and the labor shortage it brought.

“We have our good days and our bad days. It’s getting better now that COVID is slowing down, but we still have a good amount of vacancies,” she said, adding that there are an estimated 70 to 80 openings in nursing support alone.

Karas said Mercy Health attended the spring job fair and hired a few candidates who were in attendance. She said events like this are beneficial for making those connections face-to-face.

Vallourec, a steel pipe and tube manufacturer, has open positions across all departments. Elizabeth Aukerman, Vallourec talent acquisition specialist, said the company is trying to promote its production operator opportunities.

From left: Elizabeth Aukerman and Jessica Montella, talent acquisition specialists at Vallourec

“We’re really looking for general production operators, so anyone that wants to be hands on and is willing to learn,” she said.

Aukerman said that while the company loves to bring people into the Valley, it also values hiring locally and keeping talent within Youngstown. She added that the company often partners with local technical schools and universities to promote its opportunities and recruit students fresh out of high school.

Roxanne Bohach, director of career development for Eastern Gateway Community College, attended the event to network and promote its programs.

Bohach said events where EGCC can make connections and have face-to-face time with prospective students are always a success by her definition.

“Maybe you’re recently laid off or there’s a career change. Wherever you are, we can get you there. We can just say ‘hey, look at this place’ and can even please connect them with different hiring managers and representatives of these companies,” she said. “So all of these events have been successful, or any time to collaborate and network, because we’re always looking for those types of connections.”

Job fairs give colleges and universities the opportunity to focus on recruiting what is now a trending demographic for higher education: nontraditional college students. The demographic cliff and the rapidly declining population of high school graduates has caused universities to switch gears and approach recruitment and enrollment from a new angle.

Roxanne Bohach, director of career development for Eastern Gateway Community College.

Bohach said most EGCC students are nontraditional. And most of the college’s programs and services work well with the lifestyle of nontraditional students, especially shorter term programs and night classes. She said whatever the barrier between a person and higher education is, EGCC can help the student overcome it.

“We have those on campus services. We partner with various organizations that are right here, community organizations, that help those students overcome those barriers, Everything is very close right on campus,” Bohach said. “So from academics to community resources, we listen to our students and we help them from the very beginning.”

On the service industry side, the U.S. Army Reserve attended the event to spread the word about the program. The service industry employers in attendance ranged from social services to public service to food service.

Sgt. Jayson Diaz said the Department of Defense suffered on the recruitment side over the last year. The U.S. is not in an active time of war, therefore requirements and restrictions are stricter for those looking to enlist.

“There have been a lot of changes to DOD in the past year. Since we’re not in a time of war and there’s more qualifications and it’s a little harder to get into the military now,” Diaz said. “Most people think of using the military as a last resort. I try to tell my kids all the time, like the military usually isn’t a good last resort, because out of 10 applicants, only 3 are usually qualified.”

Members of the Army Reserve serve one weekend a month plus two weeks a year. For the rest of the year, they work full time at a job elsewhere. Diaz said being in the Army Reserve gives members time to continue their education, which would be paid for.

From left: Sgt. Jayson Diaz and Sgt. 1st Class Josh Chiasson.

“Non-combat really is designed to still get you those benefits of serving in the Army while fitting in your day to day lifestyle,” Diaz said.

Diaz said recruitment events like job fairs are not unique to the Army Reserve. He said they give recruiters the chance to talk to people, mainly those in their target market of young adults aged 18 to 25, and find out how the Army Reserve can help them reach their goals.

Pictured at top from left: Vicki Thompson, senior consultant for Thompson P. Miller Associates and volunteer, and Gerri Jenkins, executive director of MyPath Mahoning Valley and founder of Youngstown

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.