Google.org and an expert panel of judges named Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati as one of five finalists in the Google.org Impact Challenge Ohio. The competition celebrates nonprofit organizations that are creating economic opportunity through innovative ideas and programming.
The public now gets to choose its favorite program, out of the five, to receive $125,000 in grant funding from Google.org. Online voting opened August 10, 2020, at g.co/OhioChallenge and will conclude at 11:59 p.m. on August 17, 2020.
Easterseals is being recognized by Google for its FastTrac construction training program. The intensive, 12-week program combines classroom learning and hands-on instruction to provide a pathway to sustainable employment in the construction industry. FastTrac participants have the opportunity to earn their NCCER Core Curriculum Certification, OSHA 10-Hour Card, skid-loader and forklift certifications, and First Aid / CPR certification at no cost.
Easterseals designed FastTrac as a bridge to a long-term career for people receiving unemployment benefits or cash assistance from the government. This allows participants to continue receiving a reliable source of income while building up skills and debt-free credentials for future independence.
The grant money from the Google.org Impact Challenge will allow Easterseals to expand training capacity within FastTrac and cover the cost of certifications, as well as purchase tools, personal protective equipment, and building materials used in the training program.
“Your vote will lift our community,” shared Pam Green, President & CEO of Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati. “Our construction programs provide breakthrough moments for our neighbors in need; they are an opportunity for them to build better lives for themselves and their families. As our community struggles with unemployment caused by the coronavirus pandemic, our construction programs are a great opportunity to retrain for an essential career that has growth potential and benefits.”
FastTrac addresses a major shortage of skilled labor in the construction industry as many members of the current workforce approach retirement age. Construction is now among the most in-demand careers in Ohio. The demand for a skilled construction workforce is projected to grow 11% over the next decade according to the US Bureau of Labor statistics.
“If you’re looking for change and you like construction, this is the place to be. Things are happening that I never thought would happen,” said Maurice Jackson, an Easterseals FastTrac graduate who had spent most of his working life as a short-order cook Maurice now works for Messer Construction. “I want to pass something down to my kids. You can’t pass flipping burgers down to your kids. Easterseals has made me a better man. Not just for me, but for my kids and my fiancée. I can see things a little more clearly now.”
Support for Easterseals’ construction programs benefits its broader mission to break down barriers to build a more diverse and inclusive workforce and community, serving people with disabilities, veterans and military families, and people facing economic disadvantages.
In addition to FastTrac, Easterseals’ construction pathway includes YouthBuild, a construction training and employment program for young adults in Hamilton County who did not complete high school, and Building Value, a pre-apprenticeship work readiness program operated in partnership with Messer Construction.
The Google.org Impact Challenge is a $1,000,000 investment into Ohio nonprofits. Each of the finalists in the competition will receive $175,000 from Google.org, and Google training and tools through the Grow with Google program. Online voting will determine the People’s Choice for receiving an additional $125,000 in grant funding.
Judges who selected the five finalists include Elena Foulis, PhD, State Commissioner for the Ohio Commission of Hispanic/Latino Affairs; Brian Hall, Senior Vice President of the Greater Cleveland Partnership for Equity & Inclusion; Shilpa Kedar, Executive Director of Digital and IoT Innovations at Cleveland State University; Kimm Lauterbach, President and CEO of REDI Cincinnati; M. Duane Nellis, PhD, President of Ohio University; and Eric Phillips, CEO of the Union County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development.