‘Explore the Valley’ Career Fair Set for June 16 at YSU

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — After a successful initial run in April, Youngstown State University is gearing up for a full-scale Explore the Valley Virtual Career Fair, featuring employers in advanced manufacturing, information technology, health care and business.

The virtual event is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 16. The first event April 28 featured Ultium Cells LLC as the lone employer. As of this posting, the upcoming event has 14 employers ready to engage with job-seekers with short presentations and one-on-one chats.

Some 585 individuals registered for the first fair, says Jennifer Oddo, executive director of the Division of Workforce Education and Innovation at YSU. That number exceeded the goal of 250, and she expects registrations to be even higher this time around.

“The event was designed to be an educational tool so they could understand the different pathways available to them,” she says.

Participants ranged from high school students to individuals holding high school diplomas, associate degrees, baccalaureate degrees and those enrolled in master’s programs, according to Oddo. Community partners such as libraries and Flying High Inc. assisted those without the means to log on by providing computer access .

Job-seekers and employers can register at YSU.edu/explorethevalley. YSU is accepting employer participants up to the day of the event.

Employers registered to date include Ultium, Windsor House Inc., Lordstown Motors Corp., Vallourec Star, Valor Recovery Center, Southwoods Health, Cafaro, L.B. Foster Co., Aptiv, Cintas, Respiratory Care Partners, Steward Healthcare, Schwebel Baking Co. and Mercy Health.

Vallourec employs 400 and is looking to fill another 50 jobs. Among them are production operators, mechanical millwrights and maintenance electrical, says Michaela Cavalcanti, human resources representative. Many of the company’s hires come through referrals from current workers, she says. But she’s hoping the job fair provides an opportunity to engage the community and raise awareness of the opportunities at Vallourec.

Members of the management team for the steel products manufacturer will be on-hand for a 10-minute live discussion and will be available for one-on-one chats, she says.

“I anticipate some upper management team to join and speak to Vallourec’s success in the operations side of things and the growth they expect to have in the next couple months,” Cavalcanti says.

Being able to interact with the community was the most important part of the initial virtual job fair, says Christopher Allen, talent acquisition specialist with Ultium Cells. Ultium hosted a number of broadcasts, including a panel discussion that Allen hosted with two of the company’s manufacturing engineers who transitioned their careers to work for the electric vehicle battery manufacturer.

Allen received positive feedback on the live discussion format, as well as the one-on-one chat-box interaction, he says.

“I think there’s an appetite for knowing what we do. We haven’t done a lot of one-on-one conversations with people,” he says. “It was a good opportunity for that process to occur.”

Participants during Allen’s panel discussion ranged from 50 to 120, some of whom submitted job applications to Ultium, he notes.

For the event in June, Ultium will host two broadcasts: one focused on the production process at the plant, and another that touches on the company values.

“That’s one of the things we talk about during orientation classes,” Allen says. “I can’t say enough about YSU’s ability to provide us an avenue to get our message out to the community and recruit people.”

In addition to the live broadcasts, YSU will use the event as an opportunity to promote new training offerings through the YSU Skills Accelerator, which opens June 16 for community members, says YSU’s Oddo.

Some of the training will be subsidized through the $12 million General Motors investment into the Mahoning Valley that was part of a deal struck with the state after it closed the Lordstown assembly plant.

The Skills Accelerator will offer a flexible approach to learning that allows individuals to earn stackable industry credentials, Oddo says. It will also offer employers “learning as a service” so they can “reskill their current workforce, as well as [provide skills to] potential new workforce,” she says.

The virtual event opens the door to connecting with people outside of the region, Oddo adds. This gives Mahoning Valley employers a chance to potentially reach a deeper talent pool while also amplifying the overall volume of jobs available in the area.

“We can attract more people as a region than we can as an individual company,” Oddo says.

The virtual career fair coincides with the rebranding of the Division of Workforce Education and Innovation at YSU, which was formerly known as the Center for Workforce Education and Innovation, Oddo says.

As a division, it works to bring together training centers, workforce education programs and strategic workforce initiatives to help close the skills and opportunity gaps in the area, and accelerate “the adoptions of Industry 4.0 and in-demand industry skills,” Oddo says.

“It’s a much broader initiative that is coming to fruition based on the needs of the community and the workforce opportunities we have in front of us,” she says.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.