Penn College students in great demand at Career Fair

Published 03.01.2024

Photos by Cindy D. Meixel, writer/editor-Penn College News

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More than 75% of employers nationwide rate the job market for the Class of 2024 as “good to excellent.” Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Spring Career Fair confirmed that healthy prognosis, delivered by a National Association of Colleges and Employers survey.

More than 430 companies, offering thousands of jobs and internships in a range of fields, met with 1,333 students throughout the Feb. 27-28 event, divided between the college’s Bardo Gymnasium and Field House.

“Last spring, when we hosted a single-day Career Fair, we had a wait list of about 290 employers. Bringing back a two-day event allowed us to shrink that wait list and give our students the opportunity to engage with even more employers. There is tremendous demand for our students and the talent that they bring to the workforce,” stated Stacey L. Girven, career & alumni events manager.

Construction management sophomore Parker Shelton, of Fountainville, shares his resume with Rob Policastro, health and safety manager for JGM, an industrial construction and fabrication company based in Coatesville.

From regional companies to global Fortune 500 corporations, several employers cited the hands-on experience that Penn College students receive in the schools of Engineering Technologies; Nursing & Health Sciences; and Business, Arts & Sciences as the primary reason for recruiting on campus.

“The hands-on component distinguishes Penn College students. We think it’s absolutely critical,” said Heather Allison, campus and community ambassador for West Pharmaceutical Services Inc., a designer and manufacturer of injectable pharmaceutical packaging and delivery systems.

A Corporate Tomorrow Maker, West Pharmaceuticals employs nine Penn College graduates at its Williamsport facility, according to Allison. She was recruiting engineering students majoring in plastics, manufacturing and automation.

“A lot of students who go to colleges with straight engineering programs are brilliant, but they don’t get any time on the equipment,” Allison said. “That hands-on component offered at Penn College is key for us.”

Penn College's Field House hops with engagement during the Feb. 27-28 Spring Career Fair, attracting more than 430 companies and 1,333 students to two campus locations.

UPMC Facilities, part of the integrated global nonprofit health enterprise headquartered in Pittsburgh, hired two full-time employees with extensive practical experience at last fall’s Career Fair. That’s why they returned for the spring edition.

“We know there is a lot of talent coming out of here,” said Curtis Anthony, employment specialist. “We have openings for everything from plumbing to HVAC to electrical. Penn College has some great students in these fields.”

JGM, an industrial construction and fabrication company based in Coatesville, selected six welding engineering interns at recent Penn College Career Fairs. Rob Policastro, health and safety manager for JGM, took all six of those students to dinner on the eve of the Spring Career Fair.

“I felt like my kids were at the table,” Policastro smiled. “It’s about building relationships with the students, watching them grow and then one day come to work full time for the company. It’s very special. The kids who come out of this school have the hands-on experience, are well-educated and are respectful.”

The 2023 Internship and Co-op Survey Report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 57.6% of eligible interns were converted into full-time employees.

Mitchell McNeal, a senior in welding & fabrication engineering technology from Sheffield, shakes the hand of alumnus Mark A. Jackson (left), welding engineer with BWX Technologies Inc., as fellow welding senior Kevin D. Scharba Jr. (center) looks on. Scharba, of Kane, has already gained a full-time job with BWX.

BWX Technologies Inc., a manufacturer and supplier of heavy nuclear components for the U.S. government and military, used past Career Fair recruits to speak with today’s prospects.

Welding engineer Mark A. Jackson, a 2016 graduate, was one of about 180 alumni who represented companies at the Career Fair. He was joined by senior Kevin D. Scharba Jr., of Kane, who has a full-time job waiting for him at BWX when he graduates in May with a bachelor’s degree in welding & fabrication engineering technology.

Ben Grimmett, the company’s unit manager for welding manufacturing operations, said Jackson and Scharba reflect why the Career Fair is a must for the company, located in Lynchburg, Virginia.

“The students seem very top-notch. They’re engaging. They know what they’re talking about,” he said. “There is a lot of concern about the future of welding because of the trade’s aging workforce, but Penn College has created a program that gives me so much optimism. I look forward to working with the college much more in the future.”

Corporate Tomorrow Makers Hardinge Inc. and Bihler of America Inc. have worked with the college in the past year to provide student access to company technology. Both employers returned to campus for the Career Fair.

Hardinge, which designs, manufactures and distributes machine tools, provided the college with an XR 1000 high-performance vertical machining center in the Larry A. Ward Machining Technologies Center.

New Jersey-based Bihler of America, the U.S. distributor of automated manufacturing machines made by the Otto Bihler Co. in Halblech, Germany, entrusted for two years one of its 4 Slide-NC high-tech metal stamping and forming centers in the Gene Haas Center for Innovative Manufacturing.

“We have three hires already working at our company from Penn College,” said Karl Reed, project director at Bihler of America. “We’re very excited to work with the students here because we find that students coming out of Penn College are quality candidates and have done a really good job for us.”

Karl Reed (center in blue shirt), project director at Bihler of America, and Gary Slawik, Bihler apprenticeship manager, converse with Wesley J. Engel (left), an automation engineering technology: mechatronics senior from Williamsport.

Elizabeth Lorenz, senior HR manager for Hardinge, echoed that sentiment. “We have at least 10 Penn College grads working for us at our Elmira (New York) facility, including three recent graduates,” she said. “Your majors in manufacturing really do align well with what we do. We love the hands-on component that Penn College has.”

According to Shelley L. Moore, senior director of Penn College’s Center for Career Design, students from the following academic clusters were most in demand at the Career Fair: automated manufacturing and machining, electrical, building automation engineering, welding and metal fabrication, and diesel, heavy equipment and power generation.

“But the Career Fair was a bustling opportunity for all of our tomorrow makers, no matter their major,” Moore said.

Students like Nalee A. Rodriguez and Edwin A. Pena, both of Lebanon, and Cameron S. Musser, of Gilbertsville. All three were searching for internships.

“I’m looking to get to know people in the industry to help get my foot in the door,” said Pena, majoring in non-destructive testing. “This is a great opportunity to see what’s available.”

“Connections are key,” agreed Musser, who is studying engineering design technology. “Without connections, you can’t go anywhere in this world. Getting your foot in the door and knowing people in the field will help you discover what’s best suited for you. Hopefully, I’ll find an internship today to get the connections rolling.”

Rodriguez, a pre-radiography student, called her second Career Fair “a good experience and a good resource.” She also praised the college’s Center for Career Design for helping her prepare for the event.

“I went there to get my resume checked, and I got my outfit there, too,” she said.

The center’s Career Gear Clothes Closet offers professional attire for students at no cost.

“I got my blazer there,” Musser noted. “The Center for Career Design also helped me build my resume and get on LinkedIn.”

Ample opportunities abound in seemingly endless aisles, offering a win-win for employers and students

Dillan P. Read, of Williamsport, and Christie R. Baldwin, of New Milford, are graduating in May, Read with an associate degree in information technology: network & user support and Baldwin with a bachelor’s in heating, ventilation & air conditioning engineering technology. Both expressed gratitude for the Career Fair in their quest for full-time jobs.

“I’ve seen many great opportunities here,” said Read, who planned to visit the booths of nine companies. “It’s very nice to be able to meet with people all in the same day. It saves a lot of time for a lot of students.”

Baldwin had a list of 32 companies to possibly interact with. “I feel very fortunate,” she said. “I don’t feel this is something that every college does.”

Twenty-plus companies spent time on campus after the Career Fair to interview about 100 students for internships and full-time positions.

“The way employers embrace the Career Fair validates Penn College’s commitment to applied technology education,” Moore said. “The demand for our students and their real-world skills is truly inspiring. We’re very proud that Penn College has an overall graduate placement rate of 96%.”

Penn College’s next Career Fair will be Oct. 1-2.

For information on Penn College, a national leader in applied technology education, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

Civil engineering technology junior Alexis J. Newcomer (right), of Muncy, speaks with Irene Wetzel, director of business development at PennTerra Engineering Inc. about opportunities in her field.
On their way into Bardo Gym, these automation and electronics engineering students are prepared for success!
Alumnus Nicholas C. DeLeon (right) speaks with building automation technology student Brady J. Hopton, a freshman in building automation engineering technology. DeLeon is a project manager with Control Solutions Group. He earned his building automation technology bachelor's degree in 2013 and a heating, ventilation & air conditioning technology associate degree in 2012.
Kayla N. Berry (at center), a welding & fabrication engineering technology senior, poses a question to a representative of Magna Structures Tennessee.
Radius Systems fields immense student interest. At right is alumnus Anthony Weldon, assistant project manager, along with Michael Helm (in white shirt), company principal. Weldon received his building automation technology bachelor's degree in 2014 and a heating, ventilation & air conditioning technology associate degree in 2012.
Architecture students listen intently.
Ready to network! Chad E. Farquharson is a building automation engineering technology senior from Morrisville.
Brothers Jon J. (left) and Jake T. Twardowski, seniors in plastics & polymer engineering technology from Williamsport, consider their options.
Steve Shaner, operations manager with Drees Homes, converses with a hopeful student.
Balancing backpack, suit and resumes, construction management senior William J. Gallagher, of Mechanicsburg, makes his case with Keller Contracting.
Josh R. Hartman (left), a senior in heating, ventilation & air conditioning engineering technology from Lebanon, talks with representatives of Tate Engineering.
Robotics & automation senior Julio C. Ocampo, of Landenberg, connects with Gasbarre Products Inc.