A New Kind of 'Signing Day' for Seniors

Straight Out of High School
Posted on 06/07/2018
Image of ConcusNEO Celebration(as reported by Theresa Cottom, Ohio.com/Akron Beacon Journal)

At just 18 years old, Michael Prude already has a year of experience working at Cuyahoga Falls-based Kyocera SGS Precision Tool as a machinist.

Now that the recent Kenmore-Garfield graduate has finished high school, he’s moving into a full-time position doing work he loves at Kyocera with training opportunities, a salary and benefits — and absolutely zero college debt.

On Wednesday, ConxusNEO, an organization that helps make connections between local businesses and education, celebrated five area students who have been awarded full-time employment with a local manufacturing company right after their high school graduations.

They were honored at a “signing day” similar to those celebrating college-bound athletes but with a twist. All of the students have already moved into their respective jobs, and company and school representatives joined them Wednesday to answer questions about the new hires to a small group of parents, educators and media.

The students honored were Caleb Stewart, 18, of Kenmore-Garfield High School, who was hired at the Akron-based Acro Tool & Die; Tyler Duncan, 17, of Kenmore-Garfield High School, who was hired at the Stow-based Esterle Mold & Machine; Ian Cramer, 18, of Theodore Roosevelt High School in Kent, who was hired by the Kent-based Ron-Al Mold and Machine; and Prude and Dylan Gatian, 18, of Cuyahoga Falls High School, who were hired at Kyocera, where the event was held.

The students were connected to their employers through career programs they took at their schools. The students at Kenmore-Garfield participated in the Advanced Manufacturing program, while the students from Cuyahoga Falls and Kent participated in the Six District Educational Compact’s Computer Aided Design and Engineering Technology (CADET) program.

“The whole point of this is to show what success looks like. They are a perfect example,” said Jenny Stupica, the director of manufacturing engagement for ConxusNEO. “Success looks a bunch of different ways, and this is just one of them.”

The five students scored jobs with a starting salary in the mid-$30,000 range, opportunities for raises and advancement, good benefits and potential college tuition reimbursement.

At Kyocera, a machinist can work his or her way up from a starting salary to the low-$50,000 range in just two years, said David Reiter, the vice president of manufacturing. And if employees pursue higher education, the tool manufacturing company will cover tuition based on the employee’s grades; an “A,” for example, would receive 100 percent reimbursement, while a “B” would receive 90 percent, and so on.

But the push for a college education is what’s left manufacturing firms vying for fresh faces in the first place. Stupica said the manufacturing sector is strong in Northeast Ohio but, because college was emphasized in schools the past few decades, area firms are now trying to catch up to replenish those who are retiring.

“We need people, and [school] programs need to build into them that it’s not all about college. We need to break the barrier with parents and with school counselors because all they do is push college,” said Kathleen Sawyer, the executive vice president of Esterle Mold and Machine. “They have to understand that skilled trade is good stuff, very good money, and you don’t have any debt.”

Although only five students were featured at the event, many other students in the area have received jobs straight out of high school, Stupica said. That number is bound to pick up in the fall with the launch of Akron Public Schools’ College and Career Academies, where ConxusNEO will be a main partner in continuing to establish school-to-employment connections. The educational model places emphasis not just on college, but on careers and military enlistment as well.

But just because the new graduates don’t have to go back to college doesn’t mean they won’t want to. Four of the students honored at the event said they definitely plan on using their companies’ reimbursement programs to eventually go to college, including Prude.

For now, though, he’s settling into doing work in a field he developed a passion for as soon as he began his career-tech program in 10th grade.

“As soon as I started doing lab work, I fell in love with it … something just clicked,” Prude said.

Image of ConxusNEO Celebration
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