CMSD and partners creating workforce pathways
CMSD and partners are creating a track for graduates who choose not to go to college, helping those who head directly into the workforce find their way to high-demand, living-wage jobs.
The evolving initiative is designed to build awareness of career opportunities in fields such as manufacturing, help students explore and prepare for work in those areas and ultimately assist them in landing jobs. Early career exposure now begins in sixth grade but will eventually reach down to kindergarten.
Stronger workforce pathways will complement the two-year-old Say Yes to Education program, which fills gaps in tuition for CMSD graduates who go to college, universities and Pell-eligible training programs.
Say Yes is “critically important” for the community, said CEO Eric Gordon, who, along with school board Chair Anne E. Bingham and Vice Chair Robert M. Heard Sr., outlined the workforce efforts Tuesday at this year’s virtual version of the Ohio School Boards Association Capital Conference.
But the CEO added: “We often talk about college and career as if the two are the same thing. College is a pathway, but it’s not the only pathway.”
The program has popped up visibly with a new round of employer engagement, starting this month, through the Student Workforce Advancement Group, or SWAG, and new pipeline agreements with the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network, United Airlines and Cleveland State University.
But pieces have been put in place over time. CMSD started with development of new high school models and followed by working with partners to create True2U, a mentoring program that pairs professionals from the community with the District’s eighth-graders to help them identify their strengths and begin planning their futures.
The District is taking inventory of its pathways in areas such as manufacturing, healthcare, information technology and construction and identifying gaps it needs to fill.
Gordon said a public-private partnership is coming together to form a “career ecosystem.”
The Greater Cleveland Partnership, employers and training agencies acting as intermediaries are assisting with planning, offering workplace experiences such as job shadowing and internships, and interviewing candidates for positions. Gordon said what is now an advisory committee will soon turn into a governing body.
The CEO was asked whether the outbreak of COVID-19 has hurt progress. He said private sector partners are looking past the pandemic.
“If anything, the employers have doubled down,” he said. “Our employers are still at the table. Our intermediaries are still at the table.”