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Career Day at Thomas Jefferson International Newcomers Academy; The Future of Manufacturing in Ohio

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Along with our colleague, Mr. George Koussa, we spent the first part of Friday, November 17th, at Career Day at "Thomas Jefferson International Newcomers Academy" on West 46th Street in Cleveland. As is shown on its website at http://www.clevelandmetroschools.org/INA, this prek-12 school provides a "welcome learning environment" to help the young people get used to their new "surroundings" by being designed to them find their "way in a new country with a different language with different customs."

On this day, students aged 12-14 were rotated into three separte classrooms wherein Ms. Kim Safron, Vice President of Marketing and Community Alliances, at the "Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad", Mr. Koussa, and ourselves described what our firms/organizations did and how it related to the students; the tasks we performed there; and how our backgrounds prepared us for what we were now doing.

Before the program began, Ms. Tracy Finch (one of the three teachers whose classes we addressed) explained to the students that a "liaison" (Mr. Koussa and ourselves) makes a close working relationship between people and organizations whereas a "marketer" (Ms. Safron) is in the business of promoting and selling products or services, a job that includes doing research and advertising.

Once the rotation started, we addressed the classes of Ms. Mary Matthews and Ms. Lorena Suarez in addition to that of Ms. Finch. We explained to the young people what an immigration law firm does and how glad we were to work for someone like Ms. Margaret W. Wong because she immigrated to this country as a young woman with very little but worked hard and built a very successful law practice that has helped many people over the years to either enter the United States and/or remain here. We told them that Ms. Wong is uniquely qualified to do the work that she does because she is an immigrant herself and can thus relate to the people that she works with and what they are going through.

As for ourselves, we capsulized our duties as attending many ethnic or community events in Cleveland and building a climate of trust with the other participants so that if a situation arises wherein an immigration attorney is needed, they will call upon us and we will hook them up with an attorney at "Margaret W. Wong & Associates". To conclude, we mentioned that our preparation for doing the job that we do was serving as the local scheduler for former U.S. Congressperson Dennis J. Kucinich.

We also tried to impart to the youngsters that Cleveland is a great place to live because it is a beautiful mosaic of people from different countries and cultures coming together into a whole without the abandonment of their heritage or customs.

During the Q and A, one of the questions that we received was, "do you work for Donald Trump?" The teacher queried the student as to why he would ask that and he said that President Trump talks a lot about immigration. In response, we decided to be diplomatic and say that "no" we did not work for President Trump but we did acknowledged that he has stimulated a debate on immigration policy that has been long overdue and hopefully the debate would eventually culminate into constructive reform of our immigration polices that is so badly needed although to ourselves (not to the students because we believed it was not the time to be political) we admitted that such a hope had little chance of being realized in today's political climate.

Just before our third and last session ended, we were handed a "thank you" bag whose contents were a nice card, a pen and pad of paper (which we can make use of), and a bottle of water which we opened and made use of immediately because we had been talking throughout the morning.

In preparation for this occasion, we brought with us some English and Spanish copies of Ms. Wong's book, "The Immigrant's Way" to give to the teachers in case any of the students and/or their parents wanted to read it because it takes an all-encompassing view of immigration to this country. One of the teachers suggested that it should be transformed into a non-fiction graphic novel aimed at students like the ones at the International Newcomers Academy who were just becoming familiarized with the English language if not all young people in general. This is a very good idea and we plan to pass it on.

The program at the International Newcomers Academy ended about 11:45am so we had to push to get over to the City Club of Cleveland at Euclid Avenue and East 9th Street in time for the noontime program and we made it just after the introductions had started. Thus it was too late to eat lunch but we found a very seat on a chair in the back of the room situated so that we could clearly see all of the speakers (it was a panel discussion) and tell who was saying what.

The topic of the panel discussion was "The Future of Manufacturing in Ohio" and the panelists were Ms. Alicia Booker, Vice President at "Cuyahoga Community College"; Mr. Scott N. Paul, President of "Alliance for American Manufacturing"; and Mr. Michael D. Siegal, Chairman and CEO, at "Olympic Steel, Inc." The discussion was moderated by Ms. Elizabeth McIntyre of "Crain's".

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A lot of the territory covered in the course of the discussion was already familiar to us due to our involvement with various chambers of commerce. What was basically said was that our society must re-evaluate the long held belief that in order to be successful all young people need to attend college because there are many well-paying careers in manufacturing available to them. The challenge is to re-tool (pardon the pun but we can't resist it) the educational establishment so that it will operate along these lines (to its credit "Cuyahoga Community College already is) by encouraging students to develop their craftsperson talents as early as grade school. Opportunities for internships and apprenticeships should be enhanced with the end result being that a participant can be assured that a job will be waiting for him/her upon graduation from high school. Of course in order to successfully bring this about so that a competent workforce be prepared for the future (if not now) a strong partnership between unions, educational institutions, industry, and governmental entities must be established.

This is not to say that college should be disregarded; in fact, it should be available should to those manufacturers who want to move up the career ladder. Nor should there be fear that robots will take over and workers not be needed; robots can only do so much and in fact, if nothing else, a lot of workers will be needed to create and maintain the robots.

What needs to be impressed upon workers, is that in order to be successful, they must develop self-respect and self-discipline and and thus avoid engaging in harmful activities that will ruin their health and adversely affect their employers. They must also refrain from such irresponsible actions as talking on their cell phones when they should be working an not showing up for work on time.

During the Q and A, we asked about the value of immigrant workers and Mr. Siegal replied that foreign-born workers had great prospects particularly those from a rural background who were used to performing physical tasks. For example, the average age of a welder born in the U.S. is 65 years and a young immigrant would be a very likely candidate to do such a job.

We were glad that we made an effort to get to the City Club on this day because we really admired all three panelists because they seemed like very fair people who wanted to engage in positive discourse without scapegoating each other or other parties. Instead there was an atmosphere of everyone having to work together which we really appreciated.

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

 

 

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