Skilled Trades Expo highlights in-demand jobs with no college debt

At the inaugural Skilled Trades Expo, area students got a hands-on look at a career in the skilled trades through interactive exhibits.

“No college debt and a good-paying career.” That’s the message students from across the Mahoning Valley and Western Pennsylvania heard Thursday at the inaugural Skilled Trades Expo at the Canfield Fairgrounds.

“The reality is we initially expected around 1,500 students, and we had close to 4,500 in attendance,” said Ed Emerick, training director, Youngstown Area Electrical JATC. “We were excited to give them more knowledge about skilled trades as a whole.”

The event was put on through a partnership between the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, Builders Association of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, Western Reserve Building Trades, along with the Mahoning, Columbiana and Trumbull County Educational Service Centers.

Mahoning Valley NECA, IBEW Locals 64 and 573, the Youngstown and Warren Area Electrical JATC’s, and member contractors were on hand to inform students about the skills needed for a successful career in the electrical industry.

Outside of a building on the fairgrounds, students received instruction from journeymen electricians on the importance of jobsite safety and how bucket trucks are used on a daily basis.

Inside, a number of interactive exhibits offered a hands-on experience including conduit bending, a welding simulator, calibration equipment, studded wall frames with romex wiring and transformer training.

“If we can give students just a small bit of hands-on exposure, actually bending conduit or touching wire, that could spark an interest in the electrical trade,” Emerick said. “The excitement level has been unbelievable.”

“Joe” Dickey Electric’s Dave Dickey, who also serves as Canfield Fair Board president, was thrilled with the number of area students in attendance.

“These fairgrounds are for the youth, and I hope they use this event to build on for their careers,” he said.

Looking toward the future of the Skilled Trades Expo, Emerick hopes it can become a multi-day event, allowing each construction trade more time with students.

“We would be able to do more hands-on, and I think all the trades would agree to that,” he said. “4,000 students is great, but I know there’s more students in the area that could use this experience.”

Emerick also hoped the students walked away knowing there was more than just college for career options.

“Unfortunately, the skilled trades are the best kept secret, and we’re trying to make that not the case.”

NECA-IBEW Electricians is an association of IBEW Local 64 (Youngstown), IBEW Local 573 (Warren) and signatory electrical contractors in the Mahoning Valley.

For information on the electrician apprentice program, visit