(Plain Press, October 2015) (CMSD News Bureau) Max S. Hayes High School will offer a pre-apprenticeship program that puts students on a fast track to jobs in the construction trades.
State approval of the Building and Property Maintenance and Construction Technologies program was announced Aug. 31 at a grand-opening celebration for the career and technical school’s new building near West 65th Street and Clark Avenue. At the grand opening ceremony, Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon, Max Hayes Principal Kelly Wittman and Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Council Executive Secretary David Wondolowski signed a document formalizing the agreement. The program begins this school year.
Max Hayes and the Miami Valley Career Technology Center, which serves 27 districts in the Dayton area, are the only high schools in the state with in-house pre-apprenticeship programs, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. But the CMSD program is unique because the Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Council has provided a core curriculum and a council representative, John Nesta, on staff at the school to help fine tune the curriculum to match student skills with what the trade unions expect from apprentices. Students will have a chance to explore all the industry’s trades in all eighteen of the member unions, not just focus on one.
“This is a model for success,” David Wondolowski, executive secretary of the trades council, said before the celebration. “This is going to be a premier program. It’s really going to drive a lot of students into the building trades.”
Mayor Frank G. Jackson and CMSD Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon announced in March that they were close to fulfilling the long-held dream of a pre-apprenticeship program at Max Hayes. The breakthrough followed years of discussion with employers and unions on how to help students gain a foothold in the industry. For the past eleven years community activists, Don and Norma Freeman, regularly attended school board meetings, met with Mayor Frank Jackson and Cleveland Municipal School District leaders to advocate for the program and keep the focus on the task of creating a clear path for Max Hayes students to attain apprenticeships in the union trades.
Workers typically get on the path to apprenticeship in one of two ways, depending on the specialty: They persuade employers to sign “intent to hire” letters or they take exams and are placed on hiring lists in order of their scores. Completing the Max Hayes program will provide Cleveland students with credentials that proponents hope will open doors.
“It’s very competitive to get the slots,” said John Nesta, a career sheet-metal worker who represents the council and was hired in March to serve as a curriculum specialist at Max Hayes. “This will give them an advantage and something tangible to give an employer. And it shows their commitment.”
Students may apply for the pre-apprenticeship program after 10th grade if they have at least a 2.5-point cumulative grade average, 93 percent attendance and passing grades in all the classes they are taking at the time. They also must have passed a majority of their state graduation exams, including reading and math.
The pre-apprenticeship students must continue to meet academic criteria during the program while taking coursework and safety training specified in the agreement between CMSD and the trades council.
The students must take unit and quarterly exams, according to the agreement. An advisory committee with representatives from the industry will review the curriculum and monitor student progress.
Junior Devin Long is eager to apply for the apprenticeship program. He aspires to work as a bricklayer or carpenter and eventually supervise others in his craft.
“I’d like to be able to manage a worksite,” said Devin, who will turn 17 in October. “That would be a great experience for me.”
The signing topped off a celebration of the new Max Hayes, where 800 students began the school year Aug. 18.
The $48 million school combines state-of-the-art facilities with programs that the trades council, manufacturing advocacy group WIRE-Net and other industry partners are helping to shape. Students can train in one of four career paths: construction, automotive technologies, information technology and manufacturing and engineering.
CMSD is working with the business community to overhaul all five of the District’s career-tech schools – now known collectively as the Academies of Cleveland — and better align courses with the needs of the modern workforce. Ford Next Generation Learning, a nationwide education initiative sponsored by the Ford Motor Company Fund, is assisting.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman was among the government, community and business leaders who gathered Monday to mark the building’s opening and join in the school’s mantra: “New day, new way, Max Hayes.” He said the school can help fill a “skills gap” that is evident when he travels across the state.
“One thing I hear is that companies have a hard time finding workers,” he said. “A lot of it is that our young people don’t have the skills to get the jobs that do exist.”
Bill Graham, vice president at the B&R Machine Co., located across West 65th Street from the school, also was on the agenda. He urged students to take advantage of the opportunity they will find at Max Hayes.
“Ask yourself, ‘Am I just looking for a job, or am I looking for a career that’s going to take me someplace?’ ” Graham said. He closed by telling the students, “See you across the street.”