Jobs Fair Draws Students, Community Members To AWHS

First Solar’s Kristine Waslar, a workforce development specialist, speaks with AW seniors about opportunities. MIRROR PHOTO BY KAREN GERHARDINGER

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — With a fourth plant now open in Perrysburg, First Solar has job openings – and not just for college graduates.

“We need manufacturing engineers and technicians, but we also hire high school seniors,” said Kristine Waslar, a workforce development specialist for First Solar, a solar panel manufacturer. 

First Solar hires seniors as production operators, which is an entry-level position with full benefits and quick advancement, said Waslar as she greeted students during the February 27 Anthony Wayne High School In-Demand Jobs and Career Fair. This year, the fair drew more than 70 exhibitors, with resources not just for high school seniors but also the entire community during an evening portion.

Whitehouse resident Kathy Megyesi, armed with a notepad and wearing a business-casual outfit, came looking for a job. 

“I worked at Ardagh for 15 years and just lost my job,” Megyesi said of the Whitehouse metal can manufacturing plant that closed on January 30. “I came to see what was available.”

Finding a position that pays as well as Ardagh – up to $35.00 an hour – might be tough, she said, noting that most manufacturing jobs start at $19.00 an hour. With prior experience in an office setting, Megyesi said she’s keeping her options open on finding a job to sustain her until retirement.

Jim Spanbauer, a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force and an inspector for the 180th Fighter Wing, plans to retire in July, but he’s open to post-retirement options. Walking through the fair with his wife Lisa and teenage daughter Katie, he stopped to speak with Phil Stockwell, the supervisor of Penta Career Center’s Regional Programs and Workforce Development.

“We always need instructors,” Stockwell suggested to Spanbauer.

Since taking on the Penta program a few years ago, Stockwell has seen participation grow from a few dozen to over 200 adults taking post-secondary programs in areas such as auto maintenance, construction technology, dental assisting, HVAC, phlebotomy, precision machining and CNC programming and welding.

“Next year, we’re looking at adding public safety and firefighting classes,” said Stockwell.

Trey Jones, a 2021 Anthony Wayne graduate, thought about becoming a police officer, but took a job at BlueScope Recycling as a forklift operator and now is a heavy equipment operator for the Delta ferrous scrap recycling facility.

He was representing BlueScope Recycling at the job fair with lead inspector Danie Hillis.

“I like the people and the opportunities you get,” Jones said.

Rachael Ridley, a Lucas County Sheriff’s Office officer in inmate services, echoed that sentiment.

“I love my job and my coworkers,” said Ridley, who forges relationships with clients in the corrections center, as well as their families – connecting them to services. “They’re clients, not inmates. We watch a lot of people leave and then I see them out in the public … they remember me and how I helped them.”

The Lucas County Sheriff is looking for deputies and corrections officers, but other opportunities also exist within the department, she said.

Anthony Wayne Local Schools focuses on preparing students for life after high school, whether it’s a career, college or the military, said Stephanie Bucken-meyer, assistant principal of curriculum and career development. 

“Bringing all of these professionals in from our community really gives our students a broad perspective of just how many opportunities they have,” she said. “And it gives them practice in how to introduce themselves and hold a conversation that they will someday have with a potential employer.”

Touring the gym, senior Zachary Perry listened as Toledo Sanitary District representatives Jennifer Shimola and Ari Armen-trout spoke about current positions for larval control assistants – those who spray areas of the county for mosquitoes. While Zachary doesn’t yet know what he’ll do after graduation, he said the fair provided a good opportunity to see what’s out there.

Friends Orry Ferrington, Alexis Kiger, Jade Broka, Lexie Middaugh and Addison Metzger stopped by the Toledo Zoo booth. Alexis, who currently works for Karnik on Black taking care of dogs, wants to study to become a veterinary technician. Orry is heading to Wittenberg University to study computer science.

Addison and Lexie already have plans to head to Bowling Green State University – Addison to study early childhood education and Lexie to major in digital arts.

“I’d like to do animation,” Lexie said.

Ryan Olson surprised his friends Pricilla Chao, Summer Link and Nicholas Zdunczyk by announcing that he’s going to study chemical engineering at the University of Cincinnati. Summer also plans to major in either chemistry or engineering while Pricilla is looking into a medical field such as dermatology. Nicholas is awaiting word on whether he’ll get into the Air Force Academy.

Both Ronald Bischoff and Grady St. John plan to join the Air National Guard at the 180th Fighter Wing and work on getting degrees – Ronald in aviation and Grady in business. Friend Colton Poulos is heading to McPherson College in Kansas to study auto restoration. 

Recruiters from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, as well as the U.S. Secret Service and even the Whitehouse police and fire departments came to the event to share more about career opportunities.

This was by far the largest showing since the school started hosting a career fair, said Buckenmeyer, who wrapped up the day with a session for families to learn more about post-graduation pathways. 

For area businesses – even those that couldn’t attend the fair – the opportunities to connect with students are ongoing.

The district debuted its Generals Network, a group of businesses, organizations and professionals who want to get on board with the district’s goal of providing students with real-life information about career, educational and military opportunities, Buckenmeyer said.

“Through the Generals Network, partners will obtain a greater understanding of how to contribute to the success of the students and advance the district’s efforts to support students in their career awareness, exploration and planning as part of their road map to success,” she said.

For information about the district’s career education activities, contact sbuckenmeyer@anthonywayneschools.org or call (419) 877-0466.

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