I hope things are well with you. I hope this isn’t a false alarm but we seem to be getting busy here at Seifert. We are looking to hire a few entry level CAD Operators. I know at one time, you had a young man in here from McKinley High School that seemed pretty sharp. We are looking for people interested in full time employment. Do you know anyone?
Tim Seifert, P.E. | President | Seifert Companies
It’s the kind of email that makes my heart sing because it tells me that what we are trying to build with the United Way Get Connected program is working. Get Connected is a career-based mentoring program that works primarily with Career Technical Education students in school districts with a high percentage of students from low-income families. On the surface, we are helping students of our partner school districts learn about local employers and career opportunities. But, deeper than that, we are teaching students how to build relationships with productive adults in our community – relationships that can help them recognize their strengths and resiliency, deepen their character, open their eyes to possibilities that exist for their lives, and provide them with connections to jobs, resources and opportunities that might not normally seem accessible to them. While we are doing those things, we are building a pipeline of reliable young talent for area employers.
But the beauty of Get Connected is that, through mentoring, we are creating bridges of understanding and connection that did not exist before. Whether through our Mentors In The Classroom series, one- time mentoring conversations at a Get Connected event, or ongoing relationships, our mentors are learning from students. They are gaining a greater understanding of the challenges faced by many of the young people in our community and helping them find solutions to those challenges, connecting them with United Way-funded agencies, when appropriate. Mentees are experiencing workplaces firsthand, watching the interaction that goes on in between colleagues and hearing the stories of the uncertainty, failure, and triumphs that are part of a successful company, as well as the character and work ethic that goes into building a career. Mentors and teachers are talking about curriculum and how to address the skills gap that many employers in our area are seeing.
Examples of the innovative work we are facilitating:
-TimkenSteel welders are mentoring McKinley High School welding seniors in an afterschool program, helping boost employability of students and leading to two seniors employed in coop positions with TimkenSteel this spring.
-Aultman Hospital staff are hosting GlenOak Advancement to Nursing seniors for job shadowing rotations and mentoring discussions designed to help the students become more self-aware of how their strengths and interests align with various health care careers.
-Diebold-Nixdorf engineers have mentored McKinley Project Lead The Way (pre-engineering) students for several years, taking them on college visits, hosting job shadowing and participating in classroom activities.
– Canton City Police Department mentors are mentoring students in the McKinley Public Safety program, helping strengthen the bond between officers and youth.
These are just a few examples of the partnerships formed through Get Connected.
However, there is so much more opportunity. While it is exciting to see the progress taking place in Stark County, we need more young people, especially marginalized youth, involved and engaged in this work. Our young people should be spending time in workplaces, attending planning meetings, observing contract negotiations, learning from local tradespeople, and participating in decision-making. They should be building relationships with people from Johnson Controls so they can start preparing themselves for the kinds of careers that can be available to them. They should be a critical part of developing the “Stark County culture” that will welcome tourists who come to the Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village so they feel ownership in making the plans succeed.
All of this can happen through mentoring.
My personal mentoring journey over the past six years has taught me that there is a significant segment of our population that feels very disconnected from the positive things happening in our community, even though this progress is literally occurring in their back yards. It has also taught me that the best strategy to help students break out of cycles of generational poverty is through supportive relationships that can help them feel connected to prosperity. That is how they learn that success is attainable. If we want crime rates to go down and employment and achievement rates to go up, we must make mentoring young people a priority.
Seifert Companies has been a Get Connected partner since last year. Through my knowledge of their company, I was able to answer Tim’s question of “Do you know anyone?” with “Yes, I may have the perfect person for you.” The young man, a McKinley Project Lead The Way graduate, first had his eyes opened to the possibilities that existed for his life at a Diebold Get Connected event in 2014. Through a combination of mentoring and his own hard work, he began the difficult ascent out of poverty and is now a Stark State student, majoring in engineering technologies.. He was a perfect fit for Seifert and, at the age of 20, will begin an entry-level engineering job that will be life-changing for him. As one of his mentors, I am encouraging him to use the services of the United Way Financial Prosperity Center to develop his budgeting skills and begin building his wealth. It is tremendously rewarding to be part of his journey to break out of the cycle of scarcity and government assistance that he was immersed in most of his life. He will always be a Get Connected kid, receiving encouragement and support as he moves into becoming a future leader in our community and a mentor to the next generation. That is the power of career-based mentoring.
This editorial appeared in the Canton Repository March 26, 2017.