YSU Aims to Recruit, Retain Local STEM Talent

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The expanding STEM field is creating more demand than there is supply of workers, and Youngstown State University is trying to close the gap with local talent.

YSU’s College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics held its first annual National Technology Day Celebration Tuesday afternoon. Local high school students came to Meshel Hall to meet with local companies to see how they employ people with degrees in computer science and information technology.

Students also learned about careers in computer science and IT through hands-on demos and activities in areas such as programming, networking, security and gaming.

Emilie Brown, coordinator of STEM outreach and scholarships at YSU, said that YSU wants to recruit students while helping local companies recruit local graduates. Brown added that students who take internships and co-ops locally are more likely to stay in the area after graduation.

“We want to further engage those who already have an interest and maybe spark an interest in those who haven’t considered it as a career field,” Brown said. “There is a very large need for people with a background in these areas, and it’s just growing. So, we want to make sure they know about all the opportunities that are available.”

Ryan Geilhard, director of IT and information services at YSU, said that the field is continuously expanding, and more jobs are created as technological advancements are made. He said there is a large demand for workers, and that demand is growing.

“It’s growing every year. Every year there’s just more opportunity. And what we’ve noticed here is the field of IT is getting broader, which means there’s even jobs being added that we didn’t even foresee even two or three years ago,” Geilhard said.

The department employs students to get them into the industry early — a tactic done to both prepare students for the field and keep them interested in pursuing a job in the industry after graduation.

“The goal is for the students to have four years of a very, very broad range of experiences so when they enter the job market, not only do they have the education from four years of college but a lot of job experience,” he said.

Maggie McClendon, assistant director for diversity recruitment at YSU, said that the university hasn’t quite “hit that target” for enrollment for the upcoming year. It had to “reinvent the wheel” to recruit students due to a declining young adult population nationwide.

Events like the National Technology Day Celebration can be used as an effective recruiting tool to give high school students a closer look at YSU and the Youngstown area and what is has to offer, McClendon said.

Hunter Saltsman is a senior at YSU and an intern for the Ohio Department of Transportation. He said he found out about the internship at a STEM expo held by YSU. The East Liverpool native said he is “definitely interested” in pursuing a full-time job with ODOT, and he’s grateful for events that give students a chance to find similar opportunities.

“It’s a great working environment. I didn’t really have a plan as far as where I’d be working when I started school, I was just keeping my options open,” Saltsman said. “There was a STEM expo last spring and I talked to ODOT there and things went well.”

Mike Lucas, IT manager for ODOT District 4, said that IT plays an important role in the daily operations of ODOT — one of the many tidbits he shared with students throughout the event.

“We support the business, and the business of ODOT is building, designing and maintaining the roads and we help them do that,” he said, adding that nearly everyone at ODOT uses a computer for some job function.

Ultium Cells also came to the event to speak to students about potential career opportunities. Chris Allen, HR manager of Ultium Cells, said that the company makes a point to hire local talent.

“We want kids to stay here and have a career and support their local communities and economy,” Allen said.

Allen said that over 90% of Ultium employees are local, and the company recruits heavily from YSU as well as local high schools. “We can take kids right out of high school and train them to work in the plant. It doesn’t require any previous experience,” he said.

Allen added that Ultium has multiple opportunities for IT positions, ranging from programming the machines to security. He said that IT and computer science roles are vital to the company due to how automated the building and company is.

“The building itself is all automated, so it requires that people — even if they’re not in it — that they have some kind of IT background, or comfortability working in that environment,” he said.

Boardman High School juniors Dominic Kalbasky and Logan Rosko said they attended the event due to their existing interest in STEM. Kalbasky plans to pursue aerospace engineering, but he was curious to learn more about computer science.

“I learned more about how information works with the real world and how that science is used in everyday life, it was very interesting,” he said.

Rosko plans to pursue mechanical engineering and said that YSU is a contender for his choice of college.

Front: Boardman High School juniors Logan Rosko, left, and Dominic Kalbasky. Back: ODOT intern Hunter Saltsman, left, and ODOT District 4 IT manager Mike Lucas.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.