CINCINNATI — A new partnership between the City of Cincinnati and several education and jobs training organizations aims to provide local young people with not only a pathway to a career but another reason for hope.

What You Need To Know

  • A new Career Pathways program from the City of Cincinnati and community partners aims to create more opportunities for young people

  • The jobs program focuses on teens and those getting ready to graduate

  • The city is adding $1 million to its youth hiring budget, pumping the total to $2.4 million for this fiscal year

  • Students will work with staff year-round to help monitor their progress

On Friday, city leaders joined representatives from Cincinnati Public Schools, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College and Cincinnati Works to announce the launch of the Cincinnati Career Pathways program.

The goal of the new workforce development initiative, Mayor Aftab Pureval said, is to create “not just jobs but full career pathways for young Cincinnatians” into public service.

Career Pathways is open to both young people currently working summer jobs and those getting ready to graduate.

“Our youth in Cincinnati have broad opportunities across city departments to convert summer jobs into a professional career,” Pureval said, adding that partnerships with Cincinnati Works and Cincinnati State gives young people access to “comprehensive skills training to ensure they’re prepared for the professional opportunity.”

The program has three different pathways:  

  • Pathway 1: Jobs for students

  • Pathway 2: Careers for youth graduating from high school

  • Pathway 3: Entrepreneurship

Training can range from learning skills to become a building inspector to serving as a cadet for the Cincinnati Police Department, Pureval said. He added that other students may choose to take a job with the Cincinnati Recreation Commission as a teenager and then decide to work there full-time after graduation and move up through the ranks.

The program includes a partnership between Cincinnati Parks and Groundwork Ohio River Valley. It offers access to industry certifications in environmental engineering, design and maintenance of green infrastructure, urban forestry and horticulture.

“Because of our commitment today, (young people) have exciting and impactful new access to craft the skills and experience to make a major positive impact in their new green career,” Pureval said.

One of the young people benefiting is Damien, a 16-year-old from Avondale. Groundwork Ohio River Valley, where Damien works, doesn’t provide the last name of employees who are minors due to privacy concerns.

Through Pathways, Groundwork Ohio River Valley offers various training ranging from workplace safety and financial literacy to general workplace skills.

Damien earned his first aid and CPR certifications during his placement at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.

“Having these certifications means a lot to me, especially as someone who wants to continue working to help the environment,” he said. “Being able to put on a job resume that I’m an Ohio EPA Level 1 Data Collector or a State of Ohio Trained Service Person is great when it comes to agriculture or horticulture jobs, the jobs I see doing for a lifetime.” 

City Council Member Meeka Owens sees the Career Pathways Program as an investment in not just the city’s youth but the community.

It’s a way to keep young people engaged, provide economic opportunities and ensure diversity needed for a “dynamic city workforce,” she said.

The professional opportunities keep “youth on a positive path,” Owens said. She views enhanced economic opportunity as a crime reduction tool, as well.

“Youth employment programs build our future by improving the skills, attitudes, and social and emotional skills of our young people,” Owens added. “Most importantly, it gives them hope.”

This Career Pathways program is an expansion of the city’s existing youth employment program, Youth to Work, operated by the CRC. It primarily focused on summer jobs, though, including jobs as lifeguards and in local parks.

To expand the program, the city added $1 million to its youth employment budget for this fiscal year, bumping the figure to $2.4 million, Pureval said. Plans for additional $1 million investments will take place during each of the next two years.

The money secures partnership contracts, paying youth stipends and implementing programs across various city departments, city officials said. The city also plans to hire a dedicated program manager and other personnel to work with participants year-round.

Those funds will require approval by the City Council. But Vice Mayor ​​Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney assured those in attendance Friday getting the necessary votes shouldn’t be difficult.

Tracy Wilborn Jr. and Chelsea Bynum, both 17, have been part of the Cincinnati Fire Department’s cadet program for the past two years. They plan to become firefighters.

The program supports those interested in becoming firefighters, but who aren’t old enough yet to become recruits, to learn more about the career. 

Cadets work 30 hours a week, learning a variety of firefighting techniques during classes and other training. They also patrol city neighborhoods and attend community events with their assigned firefighter.

At the end of the program, they receive an evaluation needed to graduate.

Wilborn described the summer-long training process as “a lot like a library” because each of the members has their own unique story. They had time to learn about themselves, and each other.

“We just graduated (from cadet training), we just finished one of the stories in our book life,” he said. “We all had different outlooks on when it started, but we all had one common goal, and that was to grow.”

The Career Paths initiative also includes a track specifically designed for people who want to start their own business. It's a partnership between Cooperative Education and Internship Association, the Brothers in Motion program and Woodward High School.

In June, a group of teens selling water on Reading Road had an altercation with Cincinnati police, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, a Spectrum News media partner.

Following the incident, Roley, a consultant for the city and founder of Brothers in Motion, met with the young men and told them she wanted to help. That led to the creation of this part of Career Pathways, Roley said.

This training focuses on helping young entrepreneurs get a peddler’s license and “operate in safe conditions,” per the city’s statement. There are also mentorship opportunities.

“We want to move our selling waters to something bigger,” said Mekhi Kemper, 15, president of Brothers in Motion. “We all wanted to be entrepreneurs in a different way, but we just had anybody to really help us and pay attention, for Ms. Iris.”