By Kimberly Pistone
BOTKINS — Students from Shelby County schools met with 24 local companies at the annual Power Lunch on Feb. 24. This event was hosted by The Workforce Partnership of Shelby County.
The Power Lunch is an opportunity for students from Shelby County schools to network with local employers. Students and employers are given 15 minutes to talk to each other, with six different sessions. Companies share information about their benefits, salary, and possible job opportunities for a young adult. Jobs included full-time, part-time, seasonal, and even bridge opportunities as the students prepare for college. Students were able to share their resumes and answer questions from the employers in a low-pressure interview process.
Dexter Hicks of Ferguson Construction opened by sharing his experience. He said, “When I was finishing school, I didn’t know what to do. I liked to work with my hands. I saw an ad in the paper and I applied. I went to the interview, willing to learn.” He was hired and has now been with the company for 33 years.
Hicks shared his best advice to students by saying, “Always ask: ‘What’s next? How can I help?’”
Stephanie Merickel, a counselor at Houston Schools, came with eight students. Prior to The Power Lunch, students prepared resumes. She said “This is the culminating event of the year. It is a nice way to springboard into life after graduation.” She shared that a couple of her students last year were able to make connections at this event and find long term employment.
Jim Kenton, a production supervisor at Cargill, said, “School is not for everyone. Trades or a career can provide an opportunity in the workforce. There are lots of jobs with good pay and competitive benefits.”
Joe Bodenmiller, a supervisor at Panel Control Inc., said he likes letting kids know there are opportunities for them if they aren’t interested in college right now. Their company not only provides on-the-job training to become industrial electricians, they also will send interested employees to Edison State Community College or the UVCC-Adult Division if they are interested. Bodenmiller said, “We are always looking for new recruits who don’t want to work in a factory.”
Amy Murray, HR assistant manager at NKP, reminded students at her table that they need to ask questions about benefits when they have interviews. She also likes sharing about what NKP does. Murray said, “A lot of kids had no clue what NKP was. Lots of kids didn’t know that we have trucking, machining, and more.”
Greg Dickman of Slagle Mechanical has attended every year. He enjoys being able to network and has a lot of good conversations with kids. He likes being able to help students find their place. Dickman said, “I want to find employees, but if I can help someone find a place that is a better fit – that is the idea behind the Workforce Partnership.”
Chris Kash, dean of students at Lehman Catholic High School, said “We are trying to push them out of the nest and hope they fly.” He and Catie Adams, the counselor, brought two students to the event, with the hope they can connect with employers to decide what to do after high school.
Students had a variety of reasons for attending this event.
Kayleigh Taylor, a senior at Fairlawn High School, enjoyed talking to different companies. She said, “I learned a lot about the wages. A lot of companies are hiring at $19/hour or more.” She is planning on pursuing an Associate’s Degree at Edison State Community College and to become a manager or higher, possibly in marketing.
Emma Kemp, a senior at Houston High School, is planning on becoming an EMT. She will be attending Sinclair Community College in the fall, and she is looking for a job that will work well with college students. She was surprised to find many opportunities that have flexible hours, like Argana Fruit, where there are seasonal jobs available during school breaks. Kemp was also impressed by the networking provided. She said, “NKP told me how Honda has an opportunity with EMT and firefighters on site. That really helped me for the future, to have a new idea of where to work.”
Elijah Crawford, a junior at Christian Academy, wants to pursue a career in informational technology. He wasn’t expecting any jobs in that field at The Power Lunch because he doesn’t have any certifications yet, but he still felt that the day was beneficial. Crawford said, “I am pretty interested in Tooling Technology. They have a good atmosphere. They aren’t in my career field, but I liked them.” He is planning on pursuing a summer job with them.
Taneyah Foy, a sophomore at Sidney High School, is planning on becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner. She was really interested to learn at the Wilson Health table that job shadowing is offered in every department. She is planning on calling them to schedule some opportunities.
Natalia Wiley, a senior at Botkins High School, liked that there are a lot more opportunities than first expected. She said, “I am looking for a full time, stable job.”
Diego Portillo, a senior at Sidney High School, wants to find a good job so that he can help his family in Venezula.
Philip Bond, a junior at Christian Academy, plans to go to the College for Creative Studies in Detroit and learn automotive design, but he doesn’t want to leave college with a lot of debt, so he is planning on working for a few years to save money. He needs to stay close to Sidney because gas is so expensive.
Grant Carity, a senior at Anna High School, was surprised at the endless job opportunities in Shelby County. He is planning on enrolling at Hobart to learn welding in October, and he is looking for a job to bridge the time between graduation and Hobart. He said, “Wells Brothers had a lot of opportunities and will teach me for the future.”
Colton Smith, a junior at Christian Academy, already has some experience in car and airplane mechanics. He is hoping to find a job that will widen his mechanical skills. His goal is to get a job resorting aircraft.
Isaac Klinker, a senior at Anna High School, wants to be an auto mechanic. He is looking for somewhere to apprentice, and maybe even a company that will pay for him to go to college.
Sidney High School counselor Tonya Mclain brought 27 students to The Power Lunch. She has had a lot of success in past years with students getting job offers and connections at this event. She praised Kelly Edwards, the Workforce Partnership Career Coach, for coming to the school and helping the students prepare for their first forays into the working world. Edwards helps students with resumes, how to interview, how to dress. She also does follow ups with the students.
Edwards reminded everyone in attendance, “I am a resource that is free and available to you.” She travels to local schools, helping the students prepare for their first jobs. She was excited to have more than 60 students in attendance at the event.
The Workforce Partnership of Shelby County’s mission is to align the workforce and educational systems, responding to the skills needed in business and industry. Schools and industry work together connecting 21st-century skills development programs and preparing students and employees for local jobs.
This event was sponsored by Hometown Opportunity and Ohio College Tech Prep- West Region.
Industry representation included: Advanced Composites, Agrana Fruit US, Inc., Air Handling Equipment, Airstream, American Trim, Augusta Sportswear Brands, Cargill, Cornerstone Building Brands, Edison State Community College, Ferguson Construction, Honda, Kirk NationaLease, Koenig Equipment, Lochard, Inc., NKParts Industries, Ohio Living Dorothy Love, Panel Control Inc., Plastipak, Shelby County Board of DD, Slagle Mechanical Contractors, Tooling Technology, Upper Valley Career Center – Adult Division, Wells Brothers and Wilson Health.