Geoffrey Sherrill represented the state of Ohio at Skills USA Nationals in June and finished 14th out of 48 contestants.
We learned alot about this contest that we did not know since we have not competed in this area at nationals in 10 years. All of these things will be added to the curriculum this year as well as more intense preparation of the student who goes next year.
Raised in the farmlands of Ashland, Ohio Zach Meiss said that he was not surrounded by technology as a child. But after his family's move to Amherst, he realized he had a passion for it.
"I built my own computer when I was 12," Meiss said. "I was hooked."
But Meiss reached a crossroads as a sophomore in high school. "I was struggling academically and I wasn't motivated," Meiss confessed. "My grades were below average and I needed something different."
Meiss found that difference through the Lorain County JVS Network Communications Technology Program, a program that focuses on computer networking, troubleshooting and network installation.
"The NCT program got me interested in learning again," said Meiss. "I was very impressed with all it had to offer students like me; students that excel when learning is 'hands-on' and applicable to real work."
Meiss lauds NCT instructor Tim Reeves. "Mr. Reeves was straightforward … with a no-nonsense approach, but he balanced that with a good sense of humor."
"The courses helped me understand server technology and I worked on projects such as configuring network closets - the area where all computer cables converge into the mainframe computer from other networking sources," said Meiss. "Our class networked the offices of the NASA CORE Center located in a building on the JVS grounds."
"There were plenty of hands-on experiences like this," Meiss said. "My confidence grew and it was great preparation for the internship I was offered."
Meiss got to apply his technical skills during a job internship experience with the Nordson Corporation in Amherst, during his senior year.
He must have made quite an impression, because he landed a full-time IT position with the company the day after he graduated from the JVS in 2010.
"I learned so much, especially working with new software specific to Nordson, assisting with technical problems at their facilities and the impact their products have around the world," he said.
"I've always heard that a college diploma was essential to landing a good job," said Meiss, 19, about his new position in IS Corporate Information Systems at Nordson. "I feel very fortunate to be where I am without one (college diploma)."
This is not to say that Meiss has shunned college. On the contrary.
"I like what I'm doing, but I know that a college degree is necessary if I'm going to advance at Nordson," Meiss said.
Which is why Nordson is paying Meiss' tuition while he attends Lorain County Community College part-time, where he is pursuing his Associate Degree in Network Communications.
And thanks to the college credits Meiss accumulated at the JVS, he expects to graduate from the program in about 18 months.
But Meiss will not stop there; he plans to pursue a networking administration degree through LCCC's University Partnership Program.
"It's nice to have options, and it all began with the JVS."
NCT Grad Finds His Niche at DataServ:
There is no disputing that Lorain County Joint Vocational School courses place students on the fast track to success.
Which is why Kevin Butler enrolled in the JVS Network Communications Technology Program.
But the 2010 JVS grad from Wellington admits he was amazed at how quickly that his training led to gainful employment as a technical service engineer for DataServ of Westlake.
It began when Butler attended a Lorain County Community College Career Fair in July (2011) and spoke with representatives from DataServ, which provides networking and managed services solutions to the public, including libraries, state and local government and the educational marketplace.
"I was the only person who showed up at their booth with CISCO credentials," Butler said. "I know I impressed them. I left thinking how cool it would be to work there and hoped that I'd get a call back…sooner rather than later."
"My cell phone rang on my drive home from LCCC," Butler continued. "It was DataServ, asking me to interview for a job. Things went well and I was hired a week later. It was awesome!"
Butler is convinced that his JVS curriculum, including internships and special assignments, helped seal the deal.
"I was the only student in my class chosen to intern in the IT Department at the JVS between my junior and senior year," said Butler, who connected computers, installed software and maintained network closets connected to the department's mainframe computer.
"My answer to every question that DataServ officials asked was the same: 'Yes, I can do that. I learned it at the JVS,'" Butler said, chuckling. "I also elaborated on my portfolio, which included my resume, photos and examples of the projects I completed at the JVS."
Butler also said that he learned invaluable time-management skills at the JVS while serving as an officer with SkillsUSA, a national nonprofit organization that prepares high school and college students for careers in trade, skilled and technical occupations.
Now Butler travels around Ohio for DataServ, servicing libraries and school districts from Cleveland to Cincinnati, and from Toledo to Youngstown.
That includes upgrading (digital) phone services for the Akron-Summit County Library Systems; the Hillsboro City School District; West Holmes Local School District (where Butler served as field leader); and also resolving a problem with wireless access at the JVS.
"Most clients express concerns about their network and ask questions like, 'What happens if our phone network crashes?'" said Butler. "That's why it's important to keep the analog telephone lines connected as a backup."
Butler is also preparing for a massive project with Youngstown City Schools, replacing network equipment and upgrading network closets in seventeen school buildings.
"Technically, my day is supposed to begin at 8 (a.m.) and end at 5 (p.m.)," Butler said. "It is rare when that happens. But I'm not complaining. I love this job."
Which is why Butler is focused on his future at DataServ and pursuing advanced CISCO certifications.
Said Butler: "Technology is constantly changing. These courses provide more in-depth knowledge with equipment and installation. I know I've only been employed with DataServ a few months, but in that time I've learned that while a job is something to get you by, my job here is a career. It's a perfect fit for me."