Workforce Connect moves to adjust to pandemic landscape

Kim Palmer, Crain’s Cleveland Business

In the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, an employer-directed skills development program created by the Workforce Connect partnership was just getting underway.

The pilot program, “ACCESS to Manufacturing Careers,” which involved formerly incarcerated adults, was designed to provide hands-on manufacturing training in things like quality systems, shop floor math and soft-skill training in work readiness, but had not been designed for the public health and safety requirements brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The program was just getting launched as Ohio was shut down,” said Peter Accorti, president of Talan Products Inc., a Cleveland metal stamping and manufacturing company that participated in the employer-led training program. The students were set to go on plant tours, do in-person interviews and hands-on training, 80% of which had to be moved online.

“All the students received Chromebooks and (internet) hot spots. The training center at MAGNET was made into a virtual training center, and when things had to be taught in person, spaces were retrofitted,” Accorti said.

The Workforce Connect Manufacturing Sector Partnership represents one of three industries — health care and IT are the others — selected to be the focus of a collaboration of employers, nonprofits, funders and educational institutions working to address workforce deficiencies in Cuyahoga County.

The manufacturing partnership, initiated in 2018 and backed by the Cleveland Foundation, Deaconess Foundation, Fund for Our Economic Future, George Gund Foundation, Greater Cleveland Partnership, Team NEO and United Way of Greater Cleveland, was the first industry sector to roll out.

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Sara McCarthy is the Fund's Director of Communications.