ACE Mentoring Program Prepares Next Generation of Construction/Skilled Trades Workforce

By Rhonda Crowder

A program supported by Construction Employers Association (CEA), for the last 13 years, The ACE Mentoring Program - Cleveland has worked to expose school students to careers in the Architecture, Construction and Engineering industry, including skilled trades.  

But, most recently, their Career Pathway Committee decided to make the latter more of a priority. 

This committee formed as program leaders realized a percentage of ACE students were not at all interested in going on to traditional two to four year colleges. So they decided to connect with those students once they graduate, provide them with internships, stay close to them and offer guidance. 

“We wanted to make sure they have a career pathway. We’re trying to catch them early,” says Cindy Lietson, Career Pathway Committee co-chair and vice president Capital, Construction, and Supply Management - Cuyahoga Community College. Lietson has been on ACE board for four years. 

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“We all work so closely. The trades are so critical to our field,” continues Lietson, explaining how it just makes sense to build this pipeline. 

The Career Pathway Committee got underway about 20 months ago and has awarded three to four scholarships to students from Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s John Hay Campus, to help them enter pre-apprentice programs. 

Last year, with Covid-19, they were not able to be hands on but did facilitate webinars with panelists who could discuss what the work is like, the process and help with the pre-apprenticeship applications.  

“I do think it’s a matter of exposure,” says Lietson. “For some kids. It really resonates.”

Since the inception of this program, Lietson says, they’ve learned they have to be very transparent while having real conversations works better than showing powerpoint slides. 

Lietson believes it’s important for students to know these careers exist and are available to them, since the industry is stable. “Construction is still strong. There’s still a lot of work going on. Even after Covid, as the economy comes back, there will be local and state projects.”

Joe DiGeronimo, vice president Precision Environmental and Career Pathway Committee member says programs like this are imperative to addressing the labor shortage issue. 

“The trades have so much need,” said DiGeronimo “Succession has to be so much of what we do. “We need help. We’re looking for people. We have an aging workforce. We need backfill.” said DiGeronimo. “We need to infuse new talent.” 

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