YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The expanding STEM field is creating more demand than labor supply, and Youngstown State University is looking to fill the gap with local talent.
YSU’s College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics held its first annual National Technology Day celebration on Tuesday afternoon. Local high school students came to Meshel Hall to meet with local businesses and see how they employ people with computer science and information technology degrees.
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, YSU STEM outreach and scholarship coordinator, said YSU wants to recruit students while helping local businesses recruit local graduates. Brown added that students who intern and collaborate locally are more likely to stay in the area after graduation.
“We want to further engage those who are already interested, 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 continues to grow. So we want to make sure they are aware of all the options available.”
Ryan Geilhard, director of IT and information services at YSU, said the field is continually expanding and more jobs are being created as technology advances. He said there is a great demand for labor and that demand is growing.
“It grows every year. Every year there are just more opportunities. And what we’re noticing here is that the IT area is becoming broader, which means that there are even jobs that we didn’t even foresee two or three years ago,” says Geilhard.
The department employs students to get them into the industry early, a tactic used to both prepare students for the field and spark their interest in a position in the industry after graduation.
“The goal is for students to get a very, very wide range of experience over four years so that by the time they enter the job market they not only have the education of four years of college but also have a lot of work experience,” he said.
Maggie McClendon, YSU’s assistant director for diversity recruitment, said the university didn’t quite “meet” that goal for enrollment for the coming year. It had to “reinvent the wheel” to recruit students as the number of young adults across the country declined.
Events like the National Technology Day Celebration can be used as an effective recruiting tool to give high school students a more in-depth look at YSU and the Youngstown area and what it has to offer, McClendon said.
Hunter Saltsman is a senior at YSU and an intern with the Ohio Department of Transportation. He said he learned about the internship at a YSU STEM fair. The East Liverpool native said he is “definitely interested in pursuing a full-time job at ODOT and is grateful for events that give students a chance to find similar opportunities.
“It’s a great working environment. When I started school, I didn’t really have a plan for where I was going to work, I was just keeping my options open,” Saltsman said. “Last spring there was a STEM fair and I spoke to ODOT there and everything went well.”
Mike Lucas, IT manager for ODOT District 4, said that IT plays an important role in the day-to-day operations of ODOT – one of the many tidbits he shared with the students during the event.
“We support the business, and ODOT’s business is to build, design and maintain the roads and we help them with that,” he said, adding that almost everyone at ODOT uses a computer for some job function .
Ultium Cells also came to the event to talk to students about potential career opportunities. Chris Allen, Ultium Cells HR manager, said the company values hiring local talent.
“We want kids to stay here and have careers and support their local communities and the economy,” Allen said.
Allen said that over 90% of Ultium employees are local and the company recruits many from YSU as well as from local high schools. “We can take kids straight out of high school and train them to work at the plant. No previous experience is required,” he said.
Allen added that Ultium offers multiple opportunities for IT positions ranging from programming the machines to security. He said IT and computing roles are critical to the business because the building and business are so automated.
“The building itself is fully automated, so people – even if they’re not in it – have to have some kind of IT background or be comfortable in that environment,” he said.
Boardman High School juniors Dominic Kalbasky and Logan Rosko said they attended the event because of their existing interest in STEM. Kalbasky plans to study aerospace engineering, but was curious to learn more about computer science.
“I learned more about how information works with the real world and how this science is used in everyday life, it was very interesting,” he said.
Rosko plans to major in mechanical engineering and said YSU is a contender for his college choice.
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.