TCTC fills Mahoning Valley’s skills gap

Tribune Chronicle / Christopher Kromer Clarissa Nichols, a junior from Newton Falls, left, and Faith Mohney, a junior from Niles McKinley, fill prescriptions as part of Trumbull Career and Technical Center in Champion. An economic development group in northeast Ohio is addressing a potential skills gap in the Mahoning Valley by helping to align the supply of and demand for workers in particular fields.

CHAMPION — With constant talk of a skills gap in the Valley — the lack of qualified applicants to fill in-demand jobs — an economic development group in northeast Ohio is helping align the supply of, and demand for, workers in certain fields.

In its May 2018 report titled “Aligning Opportunities in Northeast Ohio,” Team NEO is helping local employers and job applicants find each other.

Jacob Duritsky, vice president, strategy and research for Team NEO, said information technology, manufacturing and health care employers often can not find enough qualified job applicants.

“I think there is a collective opportunity to use this data to educate schools, employers, students and families,” Duritsky said. “We see this report as a convening document.”

Team NEO is not the only entity working to close the skills gap. The Trumbull Career and Technical Center offers students hands-on experience in in-demand fields.

Madison Stanhope, a junior from Joseph Badger High School and a student in TCTC’s interactive multimedia program, said the pace of the industry piqued her interest.

“The industry is always changing,” Stanhope said. “There are tons of opportunities. There’s so much you can do with it.”

Amy Garland-Rusnak, a teacher in the pharmacy technician program, said it doesn’t take students long to find work.

“They can walk right into a job as a pharmacy technician right out of high school,” Garland-Rusnak said. “If students want to pursue more education, this experience is priceless.”

Duritsky said he believes it is important for the labor market to be inclusive.

“If kids don’t feel they are on the college track, we need to make sure they’re having an economic impact,” Duritsky said.

Dalton Hoover, a junior from Howland enrolled in TCTC’s welding program, agreed with Duritsky.

“If college isn’t for you, you can go to a technical school and learn skills to use for the rest of your life,” Hoover said. “I’m not a person who likes to read about how to do things. I’d rather have a hands-on experience.”

Some see experience at TCTC as an opportunity to try a new program to determine whether to pursue a certain career.

“This program is a good option to see if you like nursing,” said Barb Meyer, pre-nursing program instructor. Students in the program have the opportunity to work as state tested nursing assistants (STNAs) while still in school.

Kristofer Doran, instructor of interactive multimedia at TCTC, said the program is valuable for students who choose to remain in the field or do something else.

“If students from our program want to go to college, they will already have some certifications,” said Doran. “And they’ll know by the time they leave if they still want to do this.”

Still, many young people may overlook technical and skilled fields.

“There’s a lack of promotion for it,” said Parker O’Neil, a junior from Niles McKinley High School enrolled in TCTC’s welding program.

Duritsky agreed.

“We have to re-engage the community on what a good job is,” said Duritsky.

Christian Kennedy, a junior from Newton Falls and an enrollee in the construction program, said he is “very confident” the program will lead to a job.

“Everyone here is like family,” said Kennedy. “I highly recommend the program.”