African American woman speaking to classroom

Getting the job is just the first step

This Ohio nonprofit helps job candidates forge a career path in high-demand local industries.

A job candidate finding employment is a success story. Cleveland-based nonprofit Towards Employment has a bigger ambition: to help people find jobs and build careers. To do this, the organization identifies partner companies in high-demand local industries — often health care and manufacturing, and now in addition construction and information technology — and offers career coaching specific to those fields. 

In 2016, Towards Employment was part of a national pilot that tested the WorkAdvance career pathway program in four communities. In Northeast Ohio, the research phase served 349 job seekers facing high barriers to success. Most were from minority and underserved neighborhoods, and about half lacked a high school diploma. The WorkAdvance model combines sector-specific recruitment and screening and career-readiness training, as well as work experience and career planning. It includes in-demand technical training, job placement and post-employment advancement coaching. All of these components are critical to an individual’s success and long-term earnings potential. Towards Employment’s program also includes in-house legal services to address legal barriers to economic mobility. 

The organization has been getting results: Participants in Northeast Ohio, in addition to being hired into jobs more likely to offer career-advancement opportunities, after two years earned 14% more than a control group. Based on the success of the pilot program, the organization expects that 1 in 5 participants will advance in their careers within a year of placement. Towards Employment is expanding WorkAdvance to attend to at least 1,200 residents of underserved communities, many of which were disproportionately affected by the coronavirus. 

Funding from Bank of America is enabling Towards Employment to grow its pool of career coaches, who are vital to making the program work. Each coach can support up to 80 individuals, providing them with mentoring and motivation and keeping them focused on long-term goals. This program is part of Bank of America’s five-year, $1.25 billion commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity.