YSU STEM Expo Connects Students and Employers

By Brianna Gleghorn
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Getting a job after graduation is typically the first objective for new graduates, and students of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics at Youngstown State University are planning ahead of the big day.

A STEM Expo was held in the Stambaugh Stadium Gym Thursday to connect YSU students with businesses. Students met with representatives from 84 companies, moving from table to table, handing out resumes and learning more about their options after graduation.

Jairus Pettis, a senior engineering technology major, said the first time he attended the annual expo was intimidating, but he sees it as a valuable opportunity to enrich his resume and his future. Pettis doesn’t have an internship or co-op, and he attended the expo to change that, he said.

“I want to gain hands-on experience,” Pettis said. “I only know what I’ve learned in my classes and I want to expand my knowledge.”

Chris Allen, North American talent acquisition manager of Vallourec Smart Tubular Solutions, said as a YSU alumus he has a vested interest in the expo.

“This event is important for us because over the years we have become a premier sponsor of the STEM expo” he said. “I like to see the students be successful and anyway I can do that I’d like to participate.”

Allen said interns at the manufacturing company bring a tremendous amount of value to projects they are assigned and provide a “fresh set of eyes” to Vallourec.

“I go past the technical aspect of it,” he said. “There is a good understanding that they are going to be technical, especially when looking at the list of classes they have taken. Moving past that part, it’s whether or not they fit. It’s a very important part of the hiring process.”

Allen advises students to get out and socialize to better their communication skills especially if they will be working in a team environment.

“It’s going to benefit them going forward and it’s a model used in the industry,” he said. “They’re working in teams of people that come from different functional areas and know how to navigate in that.”

YSU students met with 84 employers on hand for the STEM Expo.

Barry Franks, human resource manager at Jet Stream International, said a number of the staff there has graduated from the YSU engineering program.

“We’re local, we’re right here,” Franks said. “We want to work with people in the area, students that already have Youngstown as their home and YSU has a reputation for a really good engineering program.”

Franks said students not only understand the educational side of the field, but have a great amount of hands-on experience and a strong work ethic.

“On our end, connecting with students before graduation helps us find students that match our culture,” he said. “Each company has their own identity, their own culture. But I also think this is very important for the students because they can learn about themselves. They might decide they want to focus on different areas.”

One of the important things they look for when meeting and talking with students is their ability to communicate, he said.

“We look for a student’s ability to communicate what they want,” Franks said. “Do they want an internship? Do they want more hands-on experience? We want to see if they are the right fit.”

Franks said Jet Stream International has nearly doubled in size over the past three years.

Wim Steelant, dean of the STEM college, said the expo is an important event because it helps students gain industry experience before graduation and enhances what they’ve learned in the classroom.

“Next to graduation, the most important thing for us is this event right here,” Steelant said. “We’re providing our students with internships and co-ops.”

Pictured above: Chris Allen, Vallourec Smart Tubular Solutions, meets with Cole Sexton, a sophomore studying chemical engineering at YSU.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.