When Olivia Horn started in the Industry 4.0 class, “I could not use a wrench,” she said.
Now the Brookfield High sophomore is building circuits, checking sensors and making electrical and mechanical machines work, with an eye to getting into information technology.
“Do you know how to use a wrench, now?” asked Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted.
“Yes, I do,” Olivia responded.
Junior Troy Randall is taking the same class and while his career interest is nursing, he’s getting a lot out of it, he said.
“Hands-on stuff,” he told Husted. “You can’t pass it up.”
Through the class, Randall has earned gold and silver certifications in basic operations from the Smart Automation Certification Alliance.
“It’s a good fall back,” Troy said, if something happens to his nursing plan.
Husted visited Brookfield on May 1 as part of the state’s promotion of In Demand Jobs Week.
“We have more jobs than we have people, and technology is changing the future of the economy and the world faster than ever,” he said.
Husted saw students working in the Industry 4.0 and robotics lab and the wood shop, a pre-apprenticeship program. He also learned about the Brookfield Maker Space, where students learn three-dimensional printing, plasma cutting and other machine and design skills.
“It’s impressive what you have here,” Husted said.
Husted participated in a discussion with school personnel, students and representatives of partners who are collaborating with Brookfield schools, including the Mahoning County Manufacturers Coalition and the Builders Association, which serves eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.
“For our students, to be prepared for opportunity after high school, we’re helping the public really understand what’s out there,” Husted said. “We think it’s super important to do these visits so that they know what’s available in their schools, what their students can do, even what their adult learners can do, in preparing them for that future.”
Brookfield’s emphasis on skills and careers lets students know what opportunities are out there, Husted said. They’re not limited to what they learn at home, he said.
“One of the great things we’ve done with this classroom (pre-apprenticeship) is we’ve allowed different trades to actually come into the classroom and show what they do,” said Rob Eggleston, career counselor with the Educational Service Center of Eastern Ohio. “We have bricklayers coming and laying block inside the classroom, showing, ‘This is what I do on a daily basis.’ It’s nothing for the carpenters to come in and lay flooring with the students, or the roofers to come in and show something.”
Although junior Ian Reichart is already working as an equipment operator and wants to pursue that as a career, the pre-apprenticeship class “is gonna help me sharpen up my skills, so whenever I go into the union (I’ll be) fully certified and ready to go. It’s not like a job – it’s fun being in this class. More kids like to do hands-on stuff and that’s where it comes into play.”
Sophomore Jack Nicholas was able to parlay his gold and silver certifications into a job with Kirila Fire in Hartford.
“I’m just starting out there right now,” said Jack, who plans to attend Trumbull Career and Technical Center. “I’ll be up into welding here this summer, once I start there. With those two certifications, I was able to get in, get a good-paying job, at 16 years old, through that class.”
Ohio’s unemployment rate was at 3.8 percent in March, the lowest in the state’s history, Husted said, and down from 16.4 percent in April 2020. Mahoning Valley businesses have more jobs than there are workers to fill them, with 800 jobs available in the building sector, said Gary Hartman of the Builder’s Association. Hartman said the demand for building jobs will likely double in five years.
“We’re in the Mahoning Valley – it’s more jobs than people,” Husted said. “That’s not been something that we’ve had experience with for a long time. It’s very real, and we have to do everything we can to get every able-bodied person the skills that they need.”