Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Cleveland Foundation and partners announce the launch of PACE initiative to connect students to career pathways and living wage jobs

Release Date: 11.15.2021

CLEVELAND – The Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) and Cleveland Foundation today announced the launch of the Planning and Career Exploration (PACE) initiative. PACE is the implementation stage of the “Linking CMSD Students to Career Pathways and Living Wage Jobs” effort co-convened by CMSD and the foundation.

PACE is embedded curriculum that provides all CMSD 6th – 12th graders with the knowledge, skills, experiences and confidence to uncover the occupations or careers they want to pursue, via a variety of quality in-school lessons, career advising and relevant out-of-school experiences.  

“Creating this pipeline will benefit both our graduates and the region,” said Eric Gordon, CMSD chief executive officer. “We want all of our students, whether they go to college or not, to find and thrive in living-wage careers that match their strengths and interests. And employers need qualified candidates to fill in-demand jobs.”

This launch follows a two-year, multi-sector planning and prototyping process resulting in the comprehensive plan being rolled out in schools today. CMSD is working closely with six anchor organizations and numerous other partners to implement PACE in the 2021-22 school year:

PACE’s planning process has been an ambitious, collaborative effort involving more than 100 individuals, 40 organizations and 70 employers. Its aim was to develop a guidance and support system — integrated early on into the structure of students’ educational experience — that promotes career awareness and provides work-based learning opportunities that are commensurate with students’ interests, needs and abilities. The overall goal is to ensure all CMSD students graduate from high school with a career goal and a roadmap to achieve it.

In June, the Cleveland Foundation’s board of directors approved a $950,000 grant to CMSD and the six additional organizations to help with the implementation of PACE.

“This comprehensive strategy would not be possible without the commitment from CMSD and the support from public sector institutions, the region’s employers, and youth-serving organizations in our community,” said Helen Williams, Cleveland Foundation program director for education. “It is wonderful to see the culmination of years of hard work as we celebrate PACE’s launch today and start preparing students for high-demand jobs that pay a living wage.”

PACE’s design process was divided into two phases. Phase I began in September 2019 and focused principally on problem identification and learning. It concluded with a set of actionable recommendations that were organized around two key pillars reflecting the “what” and the “how” of the design process moving forward:

  • Pillar 1: Develop and implement a structured, student-centered career exploration, work-based learning, advising and planning system to ensure every Cleveland student graduates from high school with a career direction and plan aligned to the local labor market.
  • Pillar 2: Establish a consortium of those multi-sector partners (i.e., education, employers, youth-serving and workforce nonprofit organizations, public sector, philanthropy and families) critical to coordinating, implementing, aligning and sustaining this effort.

In May 2021, the project shifted into Phase II. Per the recommendations produced during Phase I, design teams were charged with building out Pillar 1 and developing the actual career exploration, planning and guidance system for grades six through twelve and identifying strategies for maximizing employer engagement across those grades. That work concluded in August.

“The Greater Cleveland Partnership remains committed to supporting the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s PACE initiative because we know that a strong, collaborative education system will produce young people who will be successful and competitive in a radically changing world,” said Shana Marbury, GCP general counsel and senior vice president for talent. “The business community plays a critical role in being part of this system that will develop the talent necessary to help our region thrive.”

The specifics of Pillar 2 are currently being developed and the Career Consortium is scheduled to launch in early 2022. More information will be provided at that time. More than 75 employers across Northeast Ohio took part in the first two phases of the initiative. (Download PDF list.)

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