Towards Employment

Policy & Advocacy


Dr. LaShon Sawyer

Dr. Sawyer received a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Wright State University. She also holds a Master of Science degree in Social Administration from Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) and completed her Ph.D. in Criminal Justice at Capella University. She focused on the impact of collateral sanctions on returning citizens as her PhD dissertation topic.  In her daily work, she champions workforce development advocacy and policy efforts for Towards Employment. She has a deep passion for social justice issues and advocating for inclusion, racial equity, and fair hiring practices. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, LaShon loves to spend time discovering new locally owned businesses and food options while spending time with her teenage son and extended family. | (216) 696-5750 x237



We promote economic mobility, focusing on those most impacted by systemic racism. We educate and advocate for a more equitable workforce system where racial income gaps have been eliminated and everyone has access to family sustaining wages and quality jobs.

4 Action Areas


Address root causes of racial disparities throughout the workforce system.

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Promote proactive, data informed strategies to remove barriers impacting access to work and career advancement for Black and Brown workers, highlighting TE alumni voice.


Build more accesible on ramps and improve job quality, particularly at the front line/essential job categories.

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Promote policies and investments in equitable skill building and career advancement opportunities.


Create more employment opportunities for individuals with criminal justice experience.

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Decrease the number of barriers that hinder individuals with previous involvement with the criminal justice system to obtain employment with livable wages and career paths.


Acknowledge and address the social determinants of work.

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Advocate for better integration of more holistic supports into workforce programming to increase engagement, retention, and advancement in the workforce.


Racial Justice

To fully achieve our mission, we envision an equitable workforce system where racial income gaps have been eliminated and everyone, especially those most affected by systemic racism, has access to family-sustaining wages and quality jobs.   Pre-pandemic, we conducted a REI organizational assessment, and are implementing recommendations with a Committee on Racial Equity - diverse representatives from all levels of the organization (including board), which received specialized training from Equuis consulting.

We have confirmed evidence the WorkAdvance model can contribute to closing racial earnings disparity between whites and Blacks/Latinos. We are building capacity to:



the entry point to those who need a longer time to prepare to enter training.



in best practice from remote learning to maximize engagement and #s served.



career coaching to support continuous learning/social capital building of Towards Employment graduates.

Racial Justice Resources

Generation Work in Northeast Ohio

In Cuyahoga County, 1 out of every 7 people is an opportunity youth - a young person who isn't connected to work or school.  These young people are more likely to experience health problems, encounter the criminal justice system, lose significant earnings over their lifetime and are disproportionately people of color.  Bringing a racial equity and inclusion lens to employer engagement and training, positive youth development, and youth education, Generation Work is aligning workforce systems and leadership to provide better outcomes for Cuyahoga County's young people.


Northeast Ohio Workforce Coalition

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Northeast Ohio Workforce Coalition (NEOWC) is an affiliate of the Ohio Workforce Coalition and shares the vision of a future where Ohioan’s have equitable access to opportunity and the supports they need to take advantage of it; Ohio’s businesses have a skilled workforce advancing in quality jobs; and Ohio’s workforce systems are aligned, transparent, and accountable.

NEOWC works to create a “table” where local policy makers and funders can engage workforce stakeholders in a more efficient manner, and by which NEOWC members can bring priority issues to their attention.  It offers quarterly sessions to share best practices, foster innovation, promote alignment, and leverage expert input on programmatic, funding and policy issues.

The Leadership Committee includes The Literacy Cooperative, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, United Way, Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries, and Youth Opportunities Unlimited.


ASPEN INSTITUTE Northeast Ohio Workforce Coalition

The Ohio Workforce Coalition, with NEOWC as local partner, was selected in a nationally competitive process to facilitate the Aspen Institute Workforce Leadership Academy (WLA) in Cleveland.  The Workforce Leadership Academy, with curriculum designed by the Economic Opportunities Program of the Aspen Institute, brings together leaders from across a local workforce ecosystem for a year-long series of retreats, workshops, and action learning projects. The Academy provides a forum for local leaders to work collaboratively to identify local and regional systems-based challenges and create shared solutions for economic opportunity for all. Fellows work with leading practitioners throughout the country as they deepen networks; strengthen systems leadership skills; apply race, equity, and systems change frameworks to their work; and increase understanding of effective strategies and programs.

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