CLEVELAND — Since it began nearly 40 years ago, Youth Opportunities Unlimited (Y.O.U) has helped more than 160,000 teenagers and young adults in Cuyahoga County get training and land jobs.
The workforce development program has four tracks — IT, customer service, STNA and construction pre-apprenticeships.
It is completely free for those who are eligible.
For years, all credential training has been done in classrooms, catering to Cuyahoga County residents 18 to 24 years old. When the pandemic hit, they knew they had to pivot.
“I had made the decision for our program that quitting was not an option. We needed to figure out a way to serve the young people because poverty doesn’t stop,” said Marcus Harris, credential training manager at Y.O.U.
So they moved all their training online—and gave students the time and opportunities to go at their own pace, knowing not all of them have quiet places to work and hours to dedicate while at home. A creative way to help folks rebound in our community.
Harris said he gives them all an A+ for what he’s seen accomplished in the last couple of months.
“This technology and this virtual world seems to be tailor-made for them and they adjusted into very well,” Harris said.
Students like 23-year-old Aquil Treece, who just received his IT credentials virtually after weeks of training.
“I’ve always been tech savvy, but my problem with trying to get a job in the field is that I never had any professional experience,” Treece said.
Treece said it took discipline to get up every morning in the middle of a pandemic and complete his training and tests—sitting for hours in front of a screen. But he’s so grateful he did.
“With these certifications under my belt, that’ll let employers know that I know something about the field,” Treece said.
The virtual training, paired with case managers who can help students one-on-one, has been so successful that Y.O.U. believes that even when they go back in the classrooms at some point, the online credentialing will likely be here to stay.
You can click here to learn more about the free training programs and determine your eligibility.