CHAMPION HEIGHTS, Ohio — High school senior Blaine Spitler sees plenty of opportunities in electrical technology.
Spitler is part of the Trumbull Career and Technical Center’s electrical technology program that works with area businesses to provide classroom and on-the-job training. He aspires to continue his education at the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics to become an airplane technician.
“There’s so much opportunity and I feel that there’s more and more coming,” he says.
Spitler currently works for Ajax Tocco Magnethermic of Warren. The company offered to pay his tuition at Youngstown State University if he works 40 hours a week and takes night courses.
“I’ll be able to choose either one, make a good living and be happy,” he said.
Partnerships with area employers like Ajax, as well as VEC Inc., REM Electronics and HEXPOL Burton allow TCTC to enhance their students’ experiences, says Nathan Berry, career development and work-based learning coordinator. The electrical technology program currently has 12 students enrolled, who learn basic safety and electrical training at school along with on-the-job training.
“There’s a learning agreement that the instructor provides with the company to get the students to do the state standards that are required for the electrical technology program,” Berry says.
TCTC electrical technology instructor Mark Taylor contacts the employers at least once every two weeks to check on the status of his students, who spend part of their school day working at these businesses. Industry professionals who own electrical companies or fire alarm companies come into the classroom to grade the students’ wiring work.
“This is a three-way win for me,” Taylor says. “It’s a win for me because I get to hear what the industry needs me to teach them. The students get to hear critique from somebody else who they could actually get a job from, and they can shine – making sure they get their feathers in their cap at their time. And an employer gets to see possible employees.”
Sophia McElroy knew she wanted to be an electrician from an early age. She shadowed her father when she was 6 years old, enthralled with the wiring, installation and all the facets of being an electrician.
The younger McElroy pulled apart machines, televisions or whatever electronic device she could to find out how to make it work again. She also helped her grandfather with electrical wiring while updating foreclosed hosues.
“It was so cool to be able to fix everything behind the scenes and make everything else work – the really miniscule things most people wouldn’t think twice about what goes into it,” McElroy says. “I thought it was just fascinating to be able to try and make things work.”
Some of Taylor’s students went into the workforce, while others eventually became apprentices at a local union. This is after they learned the basic electrical skills of stripping and terminating wires, and understanding wire and ladder diagrams.
Those graduating the TCTC program can pursue jobs such as fire alarm apprentice, LED lighting installer, entry-level robotic technician or commercial apprentice.
Students pursuing apprenticeships, associate degrees, advance certifications or experience can be journeyman residential electricians, high-voltage line workers, electrical inspectors or commercial electricians.
Meanwhile, those with bachelor’s, master’s or specialized training can be an electrical engineer, electrical contractor, electrical project manager, master electrician or electronics engineer.
“In the electrical field, there are so many different aspects,” Taylor says. “You can go so many different ways.”
Taylor hopes students leave his program as a safety-conscious worker, especially after undergoing 30 hours of Occupational Safety and Health Administration training. His class is one of two at TCTC that offers that classification, but is three times the normal safety education, he says.
“It sets my students way ahead of others when it comes to getting a job,” he says.
He said 20% of his students have gone into the military for electrical work, along with others going to colleges or the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics. Three of his students graduated from there last month.
“All three of them had a job the next day,” Taylor says.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, electrical engineers average $101,600 and project to see a 7% increase through 2030.
“About 60% of the electricians out there can retire tomorrow,” Taylor says. “We are in a desperate area in the United States for skilled trades, especially electricians. Unless you live in certain areas that don’t have it, you can’t pick up a house and ship it to China, wire it and bring it back home. You need electricians here, boots on the ground and ready to work right here.”
McElroy believes high schools are not pushing trades as much as they could. She will be either the Bloomfield High School class valedictorian or salutatorian of her 2022 graduating class. Her guidance counselor wanted to push her to college and an ambiguous major, she says, but McElroy is staying with her trade.
“I feel like a lot of high schools tend to gear you toward college or a different job field, and almost look away from a lot of the trades,” she says.
McElroy convinced four of her friends to pursue trades who like menial details, are a bit of a perfectionist or adapt to her way of learning – building something from scratch and making lights, outlets, thermostats or any other electrical work.
“I was able to take something that is a fascinating concept – electricity – on its own, harness that and get from point A to B and make all of these things work,” she says. “It’s really good work if you don’t mind getting out there, you’ve got a good work ethic, don’t mind showing up and like the menial things.”
Pictured: TCTC electrical technology program instructor Mark Taylor reviews a project with student Sophia McElroy and TCTC Career Development and Work-Based Learning Coordinator Nathan Berry.
Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.