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    Since 2007, the Ohio Workforce Coalition has been bringing together leaders from education and training institutions, economic and workforce development organizations, business and industry, labor, and human service providers. The Coalition promotes public policies that build the skills of adult workers, meet employer skill needs, and strengthen the workforce system to ensure opportunity and prosperity for Ohio families.


Towards Employment’s WorkAdvance program, a national pilot in Cleveland and Youngstown, Ohio, designed to test promising workforce programs that employ sector-focused and skills building strategies, won the Excellence in Workforce Development Innovation Award from the Ohio Economic Development Association (OEDA).

This OEDA award recognizes unique approaches to any aspect of workforce development and recognizes a person or organization that has developed innovative practices and programs. It was awarded on Thursday, October 25, at an awards luncheon, in conjunction with OEDA’s annual summit held in Columbus, Ohio.

With support from the federal Social Innovation Fund (SIF), WorkAdvance is a model being replicated at four sites across the country to train, place and help boost earnings of low-wage and unemployed adults in the growing fields of healthcare and manufacturing with room for career advancement. Towards Employment is the lead agency to implement WorkAdvance in Northeast Ohio and is working with Compass Family & Community Services to deliver the program in Youngstown, with significant regional investments from the Fund For Our Economic Future. Towards Employment has built a network of partners to provide dual economic benefits—helping individuals compete for, retain and advance in middle skill jobs, while at the same time providing employers with screened and qualified workers. WorkAdvance collaborates with employer partners to inform curriculum and suggest preferred training sources and provides services which include: contextualized job-readiness and literacy training, career coaching, technical skill training and credentials, and ongoing case management support.

Since the program’s inception in 2010, WorkAdvance has enrolled nearly 145 Northeast Ohioans in technical skills training such as machining, welding, medical office foundations, and State Tested Nursing Assistant (STNA) PLUS. Over 90 participants are working with an average starting wage of nearly $10 an hour. “WorkAdvance offers a continuum of services that are uniquely packaged and responsive to the skills training needs of local employers,” said Rebecca Kusner, director, WorkAdvance, “By customizing our services we are able to best respond to both participant and employer demand.”
Training partners include: Choffin Career & Technical Center, Cleveland Industrial Training Center, Cuyahoga Valley Career Center, Lincoln Electric School of Welding, Mahoning County Career and Technical Center, Trumbull Career and Technical Center, and three community
colleges—Cuyahoga Community College, Lakeland Community College and Lorain Community College.

WorkAdvance is one of five promising anti-poverty programs being replicated in New York City and seven partner cities, as part of the SIF grant awarded to The Mayor’s Center for Economic Opportunity and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC. Announced by the White House in 2010, the SIF is a public-private partnership administered by the federal Corporation for National and Community Service that is designed to scale-up effective programs.

WorkAdvance builds on evidence from successful workforce programs piloted in New York and other cities. This rigorously evaluated program will contribute to a developing body of evidence for systems change so that lessons learned can benefit more people and industries. The bottom line is that WorkAdvance is testing a formula for building talent pipelines for employers—demonstrating that low-income job seekers can be a good source of labor with the proper investments and training, as well as looking at how to change the way we leverage existing services and funding to better support job seekers and employers.

Partners helping to make this model a success include: Employment Connection, Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET), Mahoning Columbiana Training Association, NEO HealthForce, Northeast Ohio Health Science & Innovation Coalition (NOHSIC), The Business Resource Network, The Center for Health Affairs, The Centers For Families and Children, The Literacy Cooperative of Greater Cleveland, and WIRE-Net. The program is accepting enrollees: contact 216-696-7311,
ccinfo@waneo.org, http://www.waneo.org. Employers interested to partner with Work Advance: contact Rebecca Kusner, 216-696-5750 ext. 230.

About Towards Employment
Since 1976, Towards Employment, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering individuals to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency through employment, has served more than 120,000 low-income and disadvantaged adults in Greater Cleveland—to help them prepare for jobs, get jobs, keep jobs and ascend the career ladder. Through holistic programming and strong employer partnerships Towards Employment builds individual skills and confidence, removes barriers to employment and helps individuals meet employers’ workforce needs. http://www.towardsemployment.org,

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