Dawn Incorporated helps YSU students, itself with scholarships

WARREN — Dawn Incorporated has paired with Youngstown State University to help build careers in the construction industry for students in the school’s STEM college.

Through the partnership, the Warren-based construction company has provided its first construction scholarships to science, technology, engineering and mathematics students Willow Miller and Dillen Knowles.

The award pays the full tuition for Miller, of Mineral Ridge, and Knowles, of Williamsfield in Ashtabula County, through their graduation, as well as gives them a job at the company.

It’s also beneficial to Dawn Incorporated, which is building a skilled workforce pipeline at a time when employees are needed.

On Tuesday at the company’s Sferra Avenue NW headquarters, its president / CEO Dawn Ochman, other company officials, YSU President Bill Johnson and STEM college Dean Wim F.A. Steelant, and others ceremoniously welcomed Miller and Knowles into the fold and celebrated the accomplishment.

“Big thanks,” Miller, 21, a senior who will graduate in the fall, said. “I know the interview process was stressful.”

“I’m glad we made it through though,” said Knowles, also 21, a junior who plans to graduate at the end of 2025.

Knowles will start work May 13. Miller will begin a week later, on May 20.

They will work full time in the summers and part time during school, earning a salary in addition to the 100% tuition payment.

“The hope is they stay,” Ochman said.

The plan, Ochman said, is to cross-train Miller and Knowles on different aspects of the construction industry.

“One came in here thinking 100% estimating, one came in here thinking 100% project management,” Ochman said of the first round of interviews. By the second round, both, she said, were thinking they might want to try another aspect, “so we’re going to teach them and foster them and see where it goes.”

Johnson said, “This is a real shot in the arm. It was one of the first things that happened after I became president at Youngstown State. When Dawn came in and started talking about this opportunity, it was something that we very, very quickly embraced.”

“This is exactly the kind of thing that we want to do. We have refocused our workforce, education and innovation priorities to more closely and seamlessly align our academic programs with the kind of workforce that employers in our region need,” said Johnson.

Steelant called the idea — developed by Ochman while attending the Youngstown / Warren Regional Chamber’s Columbus Drive-In in February — “visionary” because he’s told by employers all the time of the need for highly-skilled employees.

“It sets a tremendous example of how you can attack that shortage by acting early and that’s tremendously important for the region,” as well as the students, Steelant said.

It’s also the sort of program Johnson said he would like to see more of with other companies.

“I would think we would have companies lining up from here to Steubenville to get involved in this kind of program, because where can you get this kind of talent?” Johnson said, adding it’s a “very smart investment” by Dawn Incorporated.

Ochman said, “I don’t want it to end here. We want this to be on an annual basis. Every year, we want to keep bringing kids in. The hope is they come here, they like it and they stay.”


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