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A New Model for Partnership

Building an ACCESS to Manufacturing Careers program class requires organization, engagement and collaboration from all partner organizations, each one needing to connect with their participants and networks. In the program’s early days, these organizations were almost exclusively traditional workforce development organizations. However, as the program has grown and manufacturers’ need for employees has exploded, identifying new community organizations and partners has become critical. CHN Housing Partners is one particularly innovative, exciting group that’s emerged over the past year.

CHN Housing Partners (formerly Cleveland Housing Network) is a non-profit organization focusing on affordable housing development, housing stability and residential lending. CHN serves more than 50,000 families each year through a variety of programs, including its signature Lease Purchase Program, which offers a 15-year pathway to homeownership for low-to-moderate income neighborhood residents. Additionally, CHN provides financial literacy education and training for low-income families, and a burgeoning community-building and engagement division to provide growth and development opportunities to youth in CHN housing. Through this community engagement division, CHN and ACCESS connected.

Daniel Widder, CHN’s Community Building and Engagement Manager, noted that the CHN team was drawn to the interactive approach of the Towards Employment and MAGNET teams, as well as the high level of communication they received about the program and its outcomes. “I was really impressed when I saw the entire intake team come to the first information session we hosted. It showed the level of support that participants will receive throughout the program.”

CHN hosted an ACCESS information session in fall 2021. While the pandemic did not allow for it to be in person, CHN was encouraged by the results, as Widder commented that attendees were highly engaged by the presentation: “We have to meet our residents where they are to offer them on-ramps to good careers. ACCESS is an opportunity to do that.”

Widder took a tour through Alloy Engineering last summer, getting to meet the staff and take in the facility. That experience paired with his passion for helping CHN’s young and adult residents was the catalyst to reaching out to Sonya Weiland from Alloy Engineering directly to obtain materials to use to highlight potential career opportunities at CHN. “I’d love to see more adults and young people get the opportunity to visit a manufacturing facility and understand what a career there could look like,” Widder said.

While CHN is still planning to host ACCESS information sessions, Widder’s team has been working with our Manager of Program Execution Brandi Baker to launch new, more targeted engagement opportunities for CHN residents. CHN and MAGNET are currently developing a Mothers in Manufacturing event for May this year. The event will join mothers in the CHN community with women from manufacturers in MAGNET’s network to share information about the ACCESS program specifically and, more broadly, opportunities available to women in the field of manufacturing. Widder and his team are also considering other potential opportunities to engage CHN’s youth community to learn about the opportunities available to them.

Identifying, attracting and training future manufacturing employees is hard work that requires concerted effort from the training provider, community partners, intermediary team and manufacturers. CHN brings a collaborative spirit and energy to this work and provide a blueprint for impactful and effective partnership. We are excited to continue working with their organization and look forward to developing similar relationships with other partners going forward!

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