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Students, employers crowd annual University of Akron career fair

By Jim Mackinnon
Beacon Journal business writer

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Jesse Duke graduates in May from the University of Akron and expects to be gainfully employed by then.

Duke, a 23-year-old civil engineering major, was among more than 1,000 University of Akron students on Tuesday who crowded into three floors of the university’s InfoCision Stadium offices for an annual specialty jobs and career fair.

“I actually have a couple of offers on the table,” said Duke, whose hometown is Toronto, along the Ohio River just north of Steubenville. “I spoke with 12 companies so far, just putting my name out there.”

Duke thinks it’s possible he’ll take a job in the oil industry, specifically in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of oil and gas-rich shale. He’s already seen how Ohio’s growing Utica shale is boosting the economies of communities where he grew up.

“The shale and fracking wasn’t much when I started college,” Duke said.

Now it’s big business, he said.

“There’s a lot of wells popping up. There’s a lot of businesses staying open,” he said.

The career fair, primarily for Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) majors, is aimed at placing students in internships and co-ops that lead to jobs after they graduate. This was its 21st year. The fair was moved to the football stadium because it had outgrown the student union.

One company, 3M, told UA it had 115 open positions, said Deanna Dunn, the co-op program director who organized the fair. The fair attracted companies based in Ohio as well as other states, some of which had people staying over an extra day or two to speak with students.

“That’s our job, get them a degree and get them a job,” Dunn said. “Twenty-four of our seniors have already accepted a job, [with starting salaries] from $52,000 to $96,000.”

The fair attracted more than 160 large and small companies, some with marquee Northeast Ohio names such as Goodyear, Diebold and Bridgestone. Many company booths were staffed with University of Akron alumni.

Orrville food giant J.M. Smucker was giving away Uncrustable sandwiches at its booth, where it was signing up information technology and research and development interns.

Smucker handed out a “Top 10 Reasons” list for students to spend their internships at the company. At No. 9 was: “Afraid you’ll spend the whole internship getting coffee? At the company that has Folger’s, Dunkin’ Donuts and Millstone coffee on every floor, there’s no need to make our interns go get it for us, giving you more time to do the meaningful work you came here to do.”

William Fudge, an application development manager with OEConnection in Richfield, graduated from the University of Akron in 2001 with a degree in computer science. He was among his company’s recruiters at the fair. He also is on the University of Akron computer science department advisory board, where he helps guide curriculum development.

“I actually got my internship through [the University of] Akron,” Fudge said. “I come back every semester. It’s good to see the school grow. The career fair has grown.”

Jared Utz was among the people staffing Bridgestone’s booth. Utz, a mechanical engineer at Bridgestone’s Akron technical center, works on truck and bus tire development. He graduated in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree from Akron and got an MBA from the university last year.

“We’re looking to hire people,” Utz said. “We’re collecting a lot of resumes. We do have quite a few University of Akron people. I’ve been with the company almost 10 years.”

Melissa Skufca, a senior mechanical engineering major who graduates in May, said she currently has a part-time job with a company that does polymer extrusion.

“Right now I am looking for a full-time position for when I graduate,” Skufca said. “I’m really willing to move wherever.”

Todd Simmering, 22, came to the fair even though he already has accepted a high-paying job with Houston-based oil giant ConocoPhillips after working a co-op summer job with the company.

Simmering is a chemical engineering major and said the university was able to help him get valuable experience with the petroleum industry. He also said he’s fortunate that he won’t have any student loan debt; his paid co-op experiences financed much of his education.

His first job after graduation will involve managing shale well sites in Texas, he said.

“I am going to be doing production engineering. It’s a form of petroleum engineering,” said Simmering. “The technology just evolves.”

Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or jmackinnon@thebeaconjournal.com.


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