Students learn about jobs at Virginia’s ports

Gary Hahn, distribution operations manager for Newell Brands, speaks to area high school students during a career seminar hosted by the Port of Virginia at Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown on Wednesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

MIDDLETOWN – Students from Winchester and Frederick, Warren, Shenandoah, Clarke and Page counties gathered Wednesday at Lord Fairfax Community College for a career seminar to learn about opportunities offered at and created by Virginia’s ports.

The seminar, “The Global Economy Won’t Move Without You,” was hosted by the Port of Virginia, which oversees Virginia’s coastal ports and the Virginia Inland Port in Warren County, began with a panel discussion featuring individuals involved in logistics. Representatives from Newell Brands (Rubbermaid), Port of Virginia, Eagle Systems Inc. and CrossGlobe made presentations before moving on to breakout sessions where they spoke to groups of students.

Gary Hahn, distribution operations manager for Newell Brands, explained the jobs offered by companies like his and how places like Lord Fairfax Community College are a great way to find workers.

“As an operations manager, I use Lord Fairfax to train my people,” he said. “I require them to do two trainings – continuous education just like you guys – some based on skill set, some based on new people. It’s been great. My folks love it. It gets them out of the operations. When you train on site, people are distracted.”

The speakers discussed the variety of paths they took to get where they are today.   Some graduated from college and took a more “traditional” route to their career. Some attended college and decided it wasn’t for them and some went right into the workforce out of high school.

Jennifer Reynoso, 17, left, and April Hernandez, 18, right, both Central High School students, listen during a discussion of job opportunities. Rich Cooley/Daily

Michael Abel teaches an electricity and cabling class at Blue Ridge Technical Center in Front Royal. He emphasized that not all of his students will become licensed electricians and said career fairs like the Port of Virginia’s are important for “opening the eyes” of his students to other paths.

“We have a lot of industry in our area right now,” he said. “They’re reaching out, trying to show opportunities to students – what’s out there, what’s around them. I just asked them the question a while ago. … ‘What percentage of this class is going to go on to be electricians?’ There’s a whole other world out there. I’ve talked to them about Rubbermaid and Kraft, just to open up their eyes. It’s not all about electricity.”

Anthony Moore, a 17-year-old senior in Abel’s class, said he learned a lot about the kinds of jobs offered by the ports and other supply-chain-related opportunities.

“I was surprised at the amount of jobs that it (Virginia Inland Port) offers,” he said. “I never thought about how it branches out that far. … I have several ideas on what I want to do. I’m just going as it rolls pretty much.”

Tyrelle Robinson, also a senior in Abel’s class, said the proximity of opportunities surprised him.

Andy Bonett, left, and Leo Bzlesky, right, both 17 and Clarke County High School students, listen as presenters talk about job opportunities. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I didn’t know that we were so close to something so big,” he said. “There are a lot of job (opportunities.)”

Collin Dunivan, a junior in Abel’s class, said he was unaware of the presence of such a large nearby employer.

“I didn’t know that there were so many terminals around,” he said. “I didn’t know there were so many of them. I thought it was one big thing, but they’re separate.”

All three students said that they have more interest in the port system after hearing the presentations and having their questions answered.

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com.