Elizabeth Modic

Without advances in medical manufacturing that are advancing medical technology and supporting skilled surgeons, Dylan Gatian wouldn’t be where he is today. I’ve known him since he was born and immediately diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a congenital birth defect affecting normal blood flow through the heart.

People with HLHS require dozens of surgeries, regular monitoring by physicians, and more likely than not, a heart transplant later in life. But none of the obstacles Gatian faced stopped him from attending school, following a career path, and landing a job.

Last month, Gatian reached another milestone: signing day for local high school students, which had nothing to do with a high school athlete signing a letter of intent to continue playing sports at the collegiate level. Instead, the ceremonial signing recognized 2018 high school graduates who landed full time jobs in manufacturing, before the ink was dry on their diplomas.

Decades of declining vocational education programs have left a shortage of skilled workers. Instead of bemoaning the situation, local manufacturers are coming together with school districts – who have expanded their career-path programs – and organizations such as ConxusNEO.

Based in Akron, Ohio, ConxusNEO partners with businesses to identify skills needed to fill positions and build a talent pipeline, bringing together manufacturers and other agencies. And it’s working.

A number of students in the region graduated and moved right into full-time jobs. The event held at Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio-based Kyocera SGS Precision Tool spotlighted Gatian and four other area graduates:

While I’m familiar with these local programs and manufacturers involved, what really connected me to this event were the important milestones achieved: graduating high school, landing a full-time job with room for advancement – some employers offer tuition reimbursement – and becoming young adults with bright futures ahead of them.

And, perhaps one day, Gatian will be designing or manufacturing a medical part that could help treat him. Now that would be another milestone to celebrate.

Elizabeth Engler Modic, Editor