Are you aware of a skilled-workforce resource in your own backyard that can help your business fill positions or help someone you know get no-cost job training? At 13421 Coit Road, in the Collinwood neighborhood of Cleveland, there are a bunch of yellow buildings behind a fence that look like a small college campus or a military base. They house Cleveland Job Corps offices and classrooms, its 100 employees and space for 346 residents, aged 16-24.
In 1964, as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty program, which also included Head Start, Job Corps began repurposing and renovating former military installations into dormitories and classrooms.
The current Cleveland location is the third in the area and was built in 2007-2008. The first was on Ansel Road near Martin Luther King Blvd. The second was in the Tudor Arms Hotel on Carnegie Ave. There are 126 Job Corps locations in the United States with at least one in every state. In Ohio, there are three locations: Cleveland, Dayton and Cincinnati.
Owned by The U.S. Department of Labor, the facilities are operated by private contractors. Serrato Corporation of Tucson, Arizona has operated the Cleveland facility since 2012, in addition to Blue Ridge, Virginia, and is a subcontractor at the Charleston, West Virginia, facility.
Mr. William Houston has been the Cleveland center’s director since 2012. He has been with Job Corps for 17 years and is a Dayton, Ohio, native. He says, “We have evolved from an organization that was perceived as a last-ditch effort if a student didn’t finish high school and have shifted to a residential vocational-training center for. We are seeing more students who finished high school and who want to take advantage of free technical career training. Often, students were homeless because of the current trend of couch surfing or crashing temporarily with family and friends. They usually have had jobs but want a career and don’t want to pay $10,000-20,000 for a college training program.”
How it happens
There are five phases to the program:
- Outreach and recruitment
- Career preparation orientation (60 days receiving employability skills, customer service coaching and an array of self-assessments, as well as basic certifications, including information technology skills and program-placement assessments)
- Career development (six months to one year of training in the facility, offsite at Cuyahoga Community College and in work-based training internships; all transportation is provided)
- Career transition (one to two months prior to leaving, students work with staff to develop a departure plan while obtaining employability certificates and credentials , as well as resume and portfolio preparation)
- Student placement services for up to 1.5 years from graduation (centers are held by the government to a 92-percent placement goal for graduating students, which includes employment, the military, a college or advanced training)
During their time in the program, students receive free housing, basic medical care, meals, education, training, entertainment and recreation, and a biweekly living-allowance stipend that some save in order to become independent. They also are exposed to a positive normative culture with a zero-tolerance policy (no drugs or alcohol, bullying, violence, weapons or arrests). Students can go home on the weekends and during the holidays. They are drug tested upon admission.
The program is self-paced; so, students can start any day of the year and graduate all year long, not in a set semester-style like other schools. Last year, Cleveland had an 89-percent placement rate. But, to keep that percentage high, they need the help of local companies.
What’s in it for employers
The Job Corps screens graduates and works with employers as a pipeline for graduate placement. The organization produces future workers and feeds the workforce with well-trained, motivated, entry-level employees. Employers can provide students with the training that they need while, at the same time, giving the student a “trial run” in a paid or unpaid internship. When students graduate, many companies end up hiring them because the students already have basic safety skills, life skills, industry certifications and on-the-job training, unlike hiring someone from a temporary or job-placement agency.
Some of the local companies that have benefited by hiring graduates include Donley’s Construction, Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, John Carroll University, Swagelok and Pipefitters.
The Cleveland facility trains students in four industries: advanced manufacturing (facilities maintenance, machine technology and welding), construction (heavy equipment operator, bricklaying and carpentry), health care (child care development, clinical medical assistant, medical administrative assistant, nurse assistant/home health aide, emergency medical technician), and security and protective services. Job Corps currently is partnering with Dan T. Moore Company and Workroom Program Alliance to equip a welding and machine shop on campus so that students do not need to travel to Tri-C.
In closing, Houston says, “We want to increase awareness that there’s a training facility preparing young adults for the workforce right here in Cleveland at no cost to the student. Our mission is to get young adults ready, and they are willing and able. These are the youth who stood up and decided to be proactive. They’re here, not on the streets. They have the skills, training, education and drive to become your next great employee.”
If you’re interested in partnering with Cleveland Job Corps, you can contact Harriet Hadley, business community liaison, at 216-541-2526 or Hadley.Harriet@jobcorps.org.