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Test blog - ACCESS to Manufacturing: Helping Build Careers and Futures in NEO

Mario Gross graduated from ACCESS to Manufacturing Careers in March of 2022. Since then, not only has he found a career as a CNC Machinist, but he’s also been promoted, has established a 401k, contributes to his savings account regularly and feels good about providing for his family.


"These are things I've only dreamed of," Gross said. "I'm in a position now to have a career, not just a job."


In early 2020, manufacturers and the Workforce Connect Manufacturing Sector Partnership, which includes MAGNET and Towards Employment, launched ACCESS to Manufacturing Careers. ACCESS was originally designed to provide an on-ramp to a manufacturing career for those returning from the criminal justice system. The concept and program did so well so fast that it was soon offered to 18- to 24-year-old adults and shortly thereafter to any adult looking to build skills and begin a new career path towards economic prosperity.


By combining the education of work readiness skills with technical training and hands-on lessons taught by manufacturing employers, ACCESS graduates are standout, prepared workers. And since the start, manufacturers have been excited to open their doors to potential and skilled workers who previously were not familiar with the potential of a manufacturing career and the companies offering them.


"I was trying to change my life, because I was tired of clocking into a regular job," Gross said. "ACCESS actually changed my life. I knew absolutely nothing about manufacturing, but ACCESS showed me how to become a person who can be relied upon, be responsible and manage time."


Despite the program launching at the start of the pandemic, ACCESS has continually graduated successful cohorts of between 10 and 20 students. These graduates have gone on to work with more than 15 different companies. Ultimately, the companies grow and increase productivity while the employees are promoted and provide life-changing stability to their families and communities. ACCESS graduates with a criminal background have had no incidences of recidivism, and employers continue to enthusiastically hire from the program to fill their hiring needs.


ACCESS and other similar talent development programs benefit Northeast Ohio in two ways. They provide a variety of prosperous career opportunities to people, especially underrepresented populations. And they develop a workforce for an industry that is more in need of talent now than ever before.


Filling empty jobs isn’t the standalone benefit of this program, however. Many people don't even know what manufacturing is (specifically the modern form), how important it is to our local economy and how accessible its jobs are. ACCESS changes the perception of manufacturing and/or builds an awareness of it.


Needless to say, when MAGNET was scouting locations for its new headquarters, a key consideration was utilizing the headquarters to attract people to manufacturing careers. Rather than taking residence on a tucked away industrial boulevard, MAGNET wanted a highly visible building in a neighborhood, so it could highlight and make accessible to those who can benefit the work, programs and opportunities manufacturing offers. The former Margaret A. Ireland Elementary School was the winning spot for MAGNET’s new Manufacturing Innovation, Technology & Job Center, which is in Cleveland's Hough and MidTown neighborhoods on a busy thoroughfare heading Downtown. 


Since opening and as expected, MAGNET's talent initiatives, including the ACCESS program, have experienced a serious boost! The Community Open House, held October 28, generated so much interest in the ACCESS program that it had the largest incoming class to date.


As Gross toured the new space, he raved about how great the space is to share manufacturing with students. “When you come in here, you can actually feel the energy. These guys don’t know how lucky they have it," he said. "This facility is awesome, and its great how the students will learn from all the different machinery, so they are better prepared for their jobs.”


Like ACCESS and like MAGNET, Gross plans to just keep growing, connecting and sharing his love of manufacturing with those who will listen. "I love it. Manufacturing is the way to go," he said. "I plan on being a supervisor and seeing how far I can take my career."


Through the Manufacturing Innovation, Technology & Job Center, MAGNET is honored to inspire ACCESS graduates like Mario and build the next generation of manufacturing talent.

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