El Barrio Workforce Development works to break down employment barriers, provides career training and services

By Carissa Woytach, United Way of Greater Cleveland Staff Writer

woman filling out a financial form

The Centers for Families and Children’s El Barrio Workforce Development program, funded through United Way of Greater Cleveland, connects Greater Cleveland residents — with an emphasis on Spanish-speaking communities — with training and certifications for careers in the hospitality, customer service, retail, transportation and construction industries.

The Centers’ Workforce Development program is offered bilingually, with many of its students learning English as a second language. Eighty two percent of students are minority, female or veterans, Director Ingrid Angel said.

Partnered with employers across Northeast Ohio, including The Home Depot, Dollar Bank, Marriott, Starbucks and Aramark, the four-week program based out of The Centers’ Gordon Square office gives clients hands-on experience in their selected fields while program directors work with them to develop resumes and complete job applications.

“Almost every day a person is here, they’ll have the opportunity to be trained by [our corporate partners],” Angel said. “We’re making our promise real to people.”

filled out time sheets

The program’s promise is to help employers diversify their workforce by offering them qualified, pre-screened candidates while giving clients the training and certifications needed to best match their career goals.

In addition to El Barrio’s on-site classes in hospitality, retail and customer service, it partners with Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) to offer two 12-week programs in transportation and construction. The first half is spent at El Barrio learning soft skills like resume and application building, computer skills and preparing for a college campus. The second half is spent at Tri-C where students learn mechanics for working in construction or get their commercial driver’s license for driving RTA or other large vehicles.

Named a Best Practice Model in Training by the National Council of La Raza, the center remains a strong resource for Spanish-speaking communities within Greater Cleveland. The program has a 70 percent placement rate and a 72 percent retention rate at 90 days. It strives to place workers in positions paying at least $10 hourly.

“I’m very happy to say we’re closing the gap because we’re bringing clients and employers to the same space,” she said. “They’re here looking at each other, talking to each other and that is our promise to both sides and it works.”

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