New Castle News

October 25, 2012

Sophomores in spotlight at annual career fair

David Burcham
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — The future was on display yesterday at The Scottish Rite Cathedral, and all the participants were feeling good about it.

More than 700 sophomores from area high schools descended on the spacious site for the fourth annual Lawrence County Business and Industry Career Fair.

They departed a littler wiser and more aware of what jobs are likely to be there when they graduate in two years and what skillset they’ll need to land them.

Bob McCracken, executive director of the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, said this year’s event was the biggest so far with 25 exhibitors in the lobby, including some from Youngstown, Meadville and Erie. He also noted that 62 companies were represented, many of whom sent employees to lend a hand.

“This event wouldn’t have grown like it has if not for this facility,” McCracken said. The county’s vo-tech school hosted the first career fair in 2009 before it moved to the current site.

The schedule was staggered throughout the day so buses from participating schools arrived on an alternating schedule, keeping the numbers steady from the start just before 9 a.m. to the close at 2 p.m. Dozens of students scoured the display area, asking questions of prospective employers and picking up brochures, booklets, candy and an array of other gifts and handouts.

A second group was downstairs listening to keynote speaker Jeremy Bout while yet another group was playing “Job Jeopardy” to the popular game show tune as they took a visual test posed by business leaders in the community.

School-to-work coordinator Paula McMillin had contacted administrators from area high schools to alert them to the event and its value. Students from New Castle, Laurel, Mohawk, Union, Riverside, Neshannock and the Lawrence County Career and Technical Center took advantage of the opportunity.

“We want students and their parents to know there are good job opportunities in Lawrence County,” McMillin said.



EDGE FACTOR HOST

Bout, host and producer of the Edge Factor Show, spoke during morning and early afternoon sessions on “Why manufacturing is cool.”

Chris McIltrot, guidance counselor at New Castle High School, said the event can impact or even change a student’s mind about a choosing a career.

“Kids don’t know what to expect before they get here, but some do find things that interest them,” McIltrot said.

Two custom motorcycles were on display beside the Doodles V-Twin table, luring male and female students to speak with Mark and Fran Stachowiak, who own and operate the business. They told students what it would take to follow a similar path.

Mark said there are jobs for welders, painters and mechanical workers while Fran said there are also positions for people with mechanical, accounting and sales skills.

“You must be good at mathematics,” Mark said, noting building a motorcycle requires being able to understand measurements and decimals.

Fran said there were as many girls interested in motorcycles as boys. “They asked about the graphics, artwork and painting displayed on the bikes.”

Alex Shepherd and Madyson Boyce from New Castle High School were intrigued by the options. Shepherd said he wanted to be a veterinarian. Boyce was undecided.

Laurel High students Hailey Tammaro and Hannah Hunt are on career paths in the medical field. Tammaro aspires to be an optometrist and Hunt is looking for a career in nursing. But both admit to having changed their minds from time to time.

Rebecca Moder, coordinator of the Oh-Penn Pathways to Competitiveness, said students who attended yesterday’s event left with some valuable information.

“Even kids who have an idea about engineering don’t know what’s required and what their next step would be,” Moder said. “There are a lot of local options, but you’ve got to prepare yourself with skills that employers are looking for.”

Eric Karmecy, project manager for the Oh-Penn Pathways to Competitiveness initiative, hopes a recently obtained $6 million grant will expand similar career fairs into neighboring counties.



GETTING THE SKILLS

Colleen Chamberlain of Xaloy said yesterday’s event is vital to introduce jobs in manufacturing and industry to students.

“People say there are no jobs out there, but that’s not true,” Chamberlain said. “There are tons of jobs, but people don’t have the necessary skills to fill them.”

Chamberlain and the other company representatives spent more than five hours yesterday answering questions and telling students what skills they would need to get those jobs.

“People are going to college, but we are not producing a workforce that can do what we need them to do,” Chamberlain said.

Xaloy, a global leader in high-performance machinery components and equipment for the plastics industry, employs 450 people, half in New Castle and Youngstown.

Chamberlain began her career at Xaloy as an accounting clerk with a high school diploma. She is now the human resources administrator and specialist for the company.

Chamberlain said it took a few years for the career fair to find the right audience.

“We had eighth-graders come in, but it was too early for them. Then we had juniors and seniors, but that was too late. Tenth-graders seem to be the right age.”

Chamberlain is confident the event will pay dividends for future Lawrence County generations. “It will take a few years until we see the results of our labors here.”

Groups that helped organize yesterday’s event were the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, the Lawrence County School-to-Work program, West Central Job Partnership, which manages the Advanced Manufacturing Industry Partnership of Lawrence and Mercer Counties, and the Oh-Penn Pathways to Competitiveness initiative. The Industry Partnership, which is comprised of more than 50 manufacturers in the two counties, sponsors the event.

(Email: d_burcham@ncnewsonline.com)