Collinwood High School's future is secure with a new center in the building
The U.S. Department of Commerce has awarded a $3.6 million grant to the Workroom Program Alliance and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District to be used to transform a section of Collinwood High School into an adult technical training and workforce development facility. The high school will remain in another part of the building, guaranteeing a future for the school which CMSD had planned to close.
“We're really excited to launch a project that's aimed at preserving an historic building, central to the overall health of the communities it serves,” said Jason Drake, executive director of the Workroom Program Alliance which worked with CMSD to secure the high school’s future.
The training facility is being called the Greater Collinwood Community Career Center, more affectionately known as the G4C to those close to the project. It will be a one-stop shop for technical training and wraparound services for those pursuing careers in manufacturing.
The manufacturing industry, particularly companies on Cleveland’s East Side, Drake said, has job openings that are not being filled.
“We see this project as serving a direct purpose in reconnecting people from the community to those jobs which have family-sustaining wages and and career pathways with room for advancement and wage growth. So, we see this as an ideal solution for a building that was built for many more students than than it currently has.”
The Workroom Program Alliance has worked closely with the Greater Collinwood Development Corporation on the training facility project, in an effort “to reconnect Collinwood to the companies doing business in their neighborhoods and building on a rich manufacturing history of the Collinwood neighborhood itself,” Drake added.
The federal grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) will be matched with just over $900,000 in local funds and is expected to create 218 jobs and retain 819 jobs.
CMSD had planned to close the school under a consolidation plan proposed in 2019. But after vocal oppostion from community members, CEO Eric Gordon decided to keep Collinwood High School open another year while it looked for options to fill the 228,000 square foot building.
Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Castillo was in Collinwood last week touring the site of the new training facility.
“We recognize that Cleveland not only has great talent, but there's a high unemployment rate. We understand, therefore, that workforce is really at the core,” Castillo told Ideastream Public Media.”
In looking at grant proposals, the EDA starts off with the numbers, according to Castillo, who pointed to Cleveland’s poverty rate of nearly 35 percent. That rate is higher in the Collinwood area, Castillo said.
“So, we look at numbers all through our proposals as well as the numbers in terms of what the return on investment is going to be,” Castillo said. “We're looking at how do we not only transition high school students into good paying jobs. So we're going to start out with making sure that the school is well equipped and well prepared. And then look at, as time goes on, making sure that we're tying those students into the jobs almost directly.”
Although the EDA grant is solely focused on workforce development, Drake said the project partners are hoping to offer “career exploration and work-based learning experiences” to Collinwood high school students to familiarize them with manufacturing careers. One of the goals in placing the facility in the building, Drake said, is that it might help the high school enrollment grow as well.
“We think that the programming at the high school level has a lot to do with school choice. CMSD is a portfolio district, so students get to choose where they go to high school,” Drake said. “And we believe this offers a strong value proposition for students making the choice of where they'll spend the critical four years before they are launched out into the world.”