TE in 2017; State of the Organization

By Brian Lamb

President, Towards Employment Board of Directors

(Excerpts from the Feb 23 State of the Organization presented  to TE staff)

In 2016 we celebrated four decades, and I can truly say we look great for 40!  Towards Employment is on the rise: in 2016, 560 people were placed in good jobs (it was 475 in 2015); the average starting wage across all programs was $10.40 an hour; retention at 180 days was 73%; 184 people received skills or credentialed training, and 145 people advanced.  In 2009, when I started on the board, we worked on a strategic plan that focused on higher starting wages, gaining skills and training. We embraced a “career pathway model,” helping people not only get a job, but advance in their job. Today, I am proud to talk about what we have achieved together.

I am so impressed every day by the work each and every one of you do. TE’s achievements in reentry, advancement, and customized employer programs are all so strong.  And I want to take a moment to thank the supportive services teams, especially the legal team.  Mark Gallagher and Kathy Harlow are two of the best lawyers in Cleveland and they care immensely about the people we serve.  Their results in 2016 had impact: 20 drivers licensees reinstated; 14 child support modifications; 57 warrants cleared; 13 evictions prevented; 19 expungements facilitated; and over $400,000 in bankruptcy debt discharged. These are just a few of their achievements.  The big deal is the barriers removed so people could get to work, stay at work, and work to advance.

The number of people we serve and our starting and advanced wages, have grown tremendously over the past three years.  And while I know the $13.05 average advanced wage will continue to rise, I am proud of the work you have done to get this far.  Every 50 cent increase is an additional $1,000 a year in someone’s pocket.  That is real change.

I will complete the term of my presidency this year and move into an emeritus role for the last year of my third term, after which I will be term limited off the board.  Though it is sad to think of ending my board service at TE, as a governance matter, term limits force the organization to plan for the future and continually recruit and develop future leaders, because we all know that change is coming. Both new and seasoned board members will continue to take up the challenges set before us in the 2016-2018 strategic plan; to make real change for more people.

In 2016, we opened the doors to Bloom Bakery. Wow.  Now we have a menu of 58 items, 50 commercial customers, 15 TE graduates hired, and so much to look forward to.  Also, the WorkAdvance pilot results  came out in 2016. Another wow. The pilot was a success. Northeast Ohioans in the pilot used more services and had great employment results that resulted in more money in their pockets and better jobs than those who did not receive WorkAdvance services. We can now say for certain that career coaches (so many of you!) make a difference.

We all know we still have heavy lifting to do around the five strategies in our current strategic plan.  Deeper recruitment and employer engagement under the Scale Strategy are in the works to get to 700 placements and 200 advancements.  We are refining the TE assessment process in the Service Delivery Strategy.  We created new HR and Finance staff leadership in the Talent Strategy; and are working to roll out messaging and a donor recognition club in the Marketing & Fundraising Strategy.  Most of all, I am proud of the work the Strategic Planning committee has done to articulate what “thought leadership” means at Towards Employment under the Thought Leadership Strategy.  You will be hearing more about how TE disseminates, advocates, replicates and collaborates to make the workforce system better for all stakeholders.

Finally, I want to invite everyone to the Bloom Anniversary party on March 30 at the Public Square Bloom.  Not only do I sit on the board at Towards Employment, but I am a serious Bloom customer.  We have a lot to celebrate and I look forward to lifting a pastry with each of you!