Fast track to work: Local students choose Career Technical Education for real-life job training

Grade-A careers through Max S. Hayes CTE program, B&R Machine Co

William Musselman always wanted to follow in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps. So as a teenager, he enrolled in the Max S. Hayes High School precision machining program.

“I decided to enroll when I was young because my dad and grandfather were in machining,” he says. “I like how you have to be really precise and use problem solving and different solutions to get the job done.”

As a senior during the 2014-2015 school year, before graduating from Max Hayes High School in 2015, Musselman interned at B & R Machine Co.—a family-owned precision machining company specializing in pneumatic construction-related tools and parts­—before ultimately working for B&R full time.

Max Hayes, part of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, is a Career and Technical Education school in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. Students enroll through a lottery system and study technical trades in one of three umbrella categories: manufacturing and engineering; construction technology; and diesel technology.

Students can shadow or take internships in their fields of study, or they can earn college credit while pursuing their high school diplomas.

“It’s great for students who like to work with their hands, for students who like to invest in a trade,” says Max Hayes Principal Derek Patterson. “It pays off.”

B & R President William Graham says the company has been working with Max Hayes since 2002. CTE programs like the precision machining tract benefit both the company and the student.

“The benefit to the student is that they receive real hands-on manufacturing experience beyond the classroom,” Graham says. “The benefit to us is that we are provided the opportunity to give back to the community, scout new talent, and possibly increase our workforce.”

Musselman is a precision grinder at B & R, and he says it was an easy decision to stay. “We talked before graduation about if I would like to stay with them or look for something else,” he says. “I love the parts and products we make here and, now, the employees.”

One of the employees Musselman works with is fellow Max Hayes alum Carlos Casanova, who spent half of his junior year and his entire 2017-2018 senior year interning at B & R. He now is a full-time employee, working as a CNC programmer.

“We have a lot of different projects we have to work on,” Casanova says. “New materials and different orders keep my head moving, making sure the parts are correct.”

Casanova says he was unsure about the path at first, but as he gained more on-the-job training, he was committed. “At first, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into,” he says of enrolling in the manufacturing program. “By the third quarter of my sophomore year, I started to like the projects I was doing.”

Jessica Westropp, who works with CTE students as senior manager of youth workforce development through Manufacturing Works, talked to Casanova about taking an internship with B & R.

Graham says six of B&R’s 29 employees are Max Hayes graduates, and he has one student currently. The students intern at the company for either one or two school years before deciding their next steps. Graham boasts that he has hosted only three students who decided to move on from B & R or out of manufacturing altogether. “So, with currently having six [Hayes graduates], we have a high success rate,” he says.

Students who attend CTE programs are well-prepared to go directly into the workforce, says Brianna Schultz, vice president of workforce development at Manufacturing Works. “The students we work with at Hayes are specialized in [fields like] manufacturing, design, and CAD,” she says. “They are ready to go into midlevel skills positions rather than entry level.”

With rising tuition costs at traditional four-year colleges and universities, and a high demand for skilled workers—particularly in Northeast Ohio’s manufacturing industry—many high school students in the region are looking to fast-track their way into learning the skills they need for almost-guaranteed job security.

The region has several Career and Technical Education programs that fill a variety of employers’ needs. Several local schools offer career training or coursework for college credit in fields ranging from manufacturing to culinary arts and hospitality—paths that can lead to a custom-designed career track.

Career and Technical Education programs, known as CTE, are a good option for students uninterested in a traditional education path, says Gabrielle Scorzino, a spokeswoman for the Cuyahoga Valley Career Center.

<span class="content-image-text">Max S. Hayes High School precision machining program.</span>Max S. Hayes High School precision machining program.“Our programs are suited for those who prefer a more hands-on learning approach, as well as a student who is interested in a particular field, [because] we have various programs covering many career fields,” she says.

CTE options are increasingly popular, with growing demand for skilled workers in the fields that this educational path trains students for, she says. And the old belief that vocational training was solely for geeks and students who weren’t considered book-smart is gone.

“There has absolutely been more interest in career-technical education, especially with so many job opportunities available in areas like construction, HVAC, machining, and health care,” she says. “I absolutely think the stigma is changing, our students are proud to be gaining a quality education and skill set that can be used for their future and to have a successful career.

CTE allows students to move more quickly into the fields they choose to study—getting hands-on experience and on-the-job training in some of the fields that have a dire need for skilled workers. The jobs are plenty, and they pay well.

Demand in manufacturing

Manufacturing has a strong history in Cleveland and continues to be the region’s strongest industry—driving more than half of Northeast Ohio’s economy, according to Adam Snyder, managing director of MAGNET’s Sector Partnership.

“The reality of the situation is the vast majority of students don’t know about manufacturing, and there are 1,500 open manufacturing jobs in Northeast Ohio right now,” he says. “And 30% of manufacturing employees are 55 and over.”

The younger generation often sees manufacturing jobs as dirty work in windowless buildings in undesirable neighborhoods, Snyder says.

But manufacturers are trying to change that view and are willing to pay good wages, he says. They are quick to promote and train for advancement and even pay for continuing education.

“Manufacturers are eager to identify people who want to go into manufacturing,” he says. “It’s not even the perception gap of 10 to 15 years ago, it’s an awareness gap.”

MAGNET works with organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland, middle schools, and even adults through their workforce training programs, says Brianna Schultz, vice president of workforce development at MAGNET. They also host guest speakers, manufacturing exploration seminars, and even facilitate paid internships.

“The workforce is one of the biggest concerns of manufacturers in Cleveland,” she says. “We help students think through what makes the most sense for them.”

A blend of two loves

CTE is not limited to the manufacturing sector. Parma City School District offers a variety of industry certifications, college credits, and work-based learning through its CTE Program. Students at Parma, Normandy, and Valley Forge High Schools take their core academic classes at their individual schools and then spend half of their school days at Parma in CTE study.

“Some of our CTE programs such as teacher professions, engineering, and biotechnology require further education,” says Kristen Plageman, director of Parma’s career tech program. “Other CTE programs, such as cosmetology, culinary, auto collision, welding, carpentry, medical STNA, and auto service technology, students can enter the workforce upon graduation.”

Valley Forge senior Catherine Rybak blended her visual communications classes from her sophomore and junior years with the welding program she entered in her junior and senior years.

Rybak says the combination suited her interests perfectly. “I chose visual communication because I’ve loved art all my life, and my friends said I’d learn more than just art,” she says. “But then I got interested in welding, and I thought that’s an interesting way to [merge] art stuff with welding. And there are great jobs in welding.”

Rybak has honed her welding skills, as well as mastered Adobe Creative Cloud, Illustrator, In Design, and Photoshop through the two CTE tracks.

And there are jobs that require the unique set of skills Rybak has amassed, says Plageman, citing Lincoln Electric’s welding sculpture projects as one example.

Rybak plans to go to a four-year art school after graduation—right now she has her sights set on Montserrat College of Art in Massachusetts. But she also plans to get a welding job to help pay for school.

A love for cooking turned into a career

Garfield Heights High School senior Adam Smith fell in love with cooking as a child, when he helped cook in his grandfather’s deli. “I always knew cooking was in my blood,” he says.

So, it was an obvious choice for Smith to enroll in Cuyahoga Valley Career Center’s culinary arts program to fulfill his dream of becoming a private chef.

“My favorite part of the program is being able to be creative and express myself through food,” he says. “I feel I am a quality leader within my program. I also really appreciate that CVCC has opportunities for students to learn areas they are passionate about, being hands-on every day is a great joy for me.”

The career center provides about 1,000 area high school students in eight school districts with nearly 30 CTE programs, as well as offers K-12 career education, according to Superintendent Dave Mangas, serving more than 25,000 students, and provides adult education and community services to the southeast suburbs.

After high school, Smith plans to join the U.S. Navy as a culinary specialist and continue to pay homage to his grandfather, who first fueled his passion for cooking.

“Ultimately, my dream is to become a private chef and eventually open my own restaurant,” he says. “I want to create a positive, family atmosphere where all feel welcome.”

The series is made possible through the support of Citizens Bank, the First Suburbs Consortium, and the First Ring Schools Collaborative.

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.