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Industry supports Academies of Cleveland changes

Industry and higher education weighed in Wednesday on how the District can better align its career-tech programs with the needs of the modern work force.

With the help of the business community, CMSD is evaluating and mapping the future of career pathways at five career-technical high schools: Max S. Hayes, Martin Luther King Jr., Jane Addams, Washington Park and Garrett Morgan.

Ford Next Generation Learning, a nationwide education initiative sponsored by the Ford Motor Company Fund, is guiding the career-tech work. The District has jointly branded the five schools as the Academies of Cleveland.

About 50 interested parties crowded into a meeting room Wednesday at the offices of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, the metropolitan area chamber of commerce. The gathering was billed as a “stop, start, sustain” discussion, succinctly listing the three options for programs.

John Hoops of the consulting group Futureworks kicked off the meeting by laying out findings from a regional job-market study completed last year for the Cleveland Foundation.

Futureworks counted thousands of high-demand, high-paying, high-skill jobs available in areas like information technology and advanced manufacturing. But the study also documented a large shortage of Cleveland residents with the college education or skills training employers now require.

John Colm, president and executive director of WIRE-Net, a nonprofit manufacturing advocacy group, was direct when the question of how to respond was thrown to the audience.

“Do more faster,” he said. “We have 11 or 12 seniors in the machining program at Max Hayes – that’s a drop in the bucket.”

Jason Drake, an education consultant to industrial investor Dan T. Moore, urged CMSD to start building the workforce pipeline earlier. Moore’s company has developed a career curriculum that would introduce students to hands-on skills and job possibilities as early as fifth-grade and extend through high school.

“We believe a fifth-grader can solder,” Drake said. “This is an issue near and dear to his heart and has been for years. He has seen manufacturing talent dry up.”

Others in the audience called for addressing factors that they said can hamper efforts to develop the workforce. They said the schools and community have to deal with barriers like criminal records that hold back or derail prospective workers.

Shana Marbury, the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s vice president for strategic initiatives and research, encouraged audience members to stay involved as CMSD’s career-tech makeover advances. Ford Next Generation Learning emphasizes business and community engagement.

“We need you to join us,” Marbury said. “We need you to roll up your sleeves and elevate this conversation.”