YTA programs prepare Greater Cleveland youth for technology education careers.

The Youth Technology Program (YTA) is comprised of several youth-serving programs (both year-round/after-school and summer) that prepare young people, age 14-21, for technical and engineering careers by providing them with academic, applied technical, and work readiness training. Through academic study, as well as participation in competitive events and community-based outreach activities, students leave YTA programs with the technical skills, work ethic, and confidence to pursue post-secondary education or directly enter the high-tech workforce. Since its inception in 2003, YTA has become a dynamic contributor to the revitalization of northeast Ohio’s workforce economy.


YTA was born out of a conviction that the northeast Ohio region, hard hit by the prolonged decline in the traditional manufacturing base that had sustained it for much of its history, lacked the highly-skilled technology workforce that could attract the innovative business and industries needed to revitalize the regional economy. Moreover, area high school students, especially those in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) – an impoverished urban school system with a minority student population of 58% — lacked the facilities, resources, and access to quality, real-world STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) educational opportunities that would allow them to compete successfully in the job market.

In 2003, YTA, working through Cuyahoga Community College and in partnership with CMSD, submitted its first Workforce Investment Act (WIA) proposal to the City of Cleveland/Cuyahoga County Workforce Investment Board and was awarded funding to establish the Youth Technology Academy in-school program for income-eligible high school youths, 14-18 years old.

2004 marked the debut season of FIRST Robotics Team 1270, the YTA Red Dragons, funded by NASA and several area businesses and foundations. YTA’s 30-student ‘varsity’ robotics team has competed successfully at both the regional and national level. In 2007, the Red Dragons advanced to the final round of the FIRST Robotics Championship competition in Atlanta, Georgia, attaining runner-up honors as part of a three-team alliance.

In 2006, YTA successfully leveraged its innovative approach to technology education into a three-year award from the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technology Education (ATE) program. The NSF Robotics Corridor Project introduced distance learning into the YTA program delivery model by broadcasting a basic technology course to students in 10 CMSD classrooms, each operating under the supervision of a CMSD/YTA “Technology Ambassador.” (The distance learning component successfully piloted under the NSF Robotics Corridor Project has been incorporated into subsequent funding cycles of the YTA in-school program.)

In 2007, a second WIA-funded program, the Advanced Technology Academy (ATA), was established to provide out-of-school youth, 18-21 years of age, with intensive technical and work readiness/job skills training in high-demand disciplines, four weeks of paid on-the-job work experience, and adult mentoring and follow-up services.

In summer, 2009, YTA received additional WIA funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, President Obama’s economic stimulus initiative) to fund the Summer Pathways Project, which provided summer work experience for more than 400 WIA-eligible young people, age 14-24.

Participation Levels

From an initial enrollment of 11 students in 2003, the YTA in-school program has grown to a current enrollment of 477 young people in 2009. Of those currently enrolled, 62 percent are returning students with 2 to 4 years of participation; 17 percent of the current student participants have participated for 3 to 4 years.

The ATA out-of-school program has been funded to serve 45 young adults annually since its inception in 2007.
Participation levels in WIA-funded programs are governed by the terms of YTA’s award agreements with the City of Cleveland/Cuyahoga County Workforce Investment Board. Supplemental funding from non-WIA sources has historically permitted YTA to accept additional, non-WIA students. For example, NSF Robotics Corridor Project funding enabled YTA to provide technology instruction to an additional 90 students from 2006 to 2009.

For a more detailed look at YTA’s participant history, click here.

Student Demographics

The students served by YTA’s programs reflect the ethnic, racial, and cultural diversity of the Cleveland metropolitan area:

Of the current YTA student population, 55 percent area male; 45 percent are female.

YTA is unique in the type of student it accepts into its programs. Desire, interest, and a willingness to commit to these demanding programs count just as much as – and sometimes more than – intellectual or natural ability. GPAs of YTA students average 2.62. Many YTA students are considered marginal by traditional academic standards. Several come to YTA motivationally challenged, disillusioned with the traditional classroom, and with limited or no confidence in their ability to succeed in school or in life.

When these students are exposed to the type of hands-on, applied learning that the YTA programs provide — and are presented with opportunities to participate in technology activities such as the FIRST and VEX robotics programs – amazing things begin to happen. These same students who have struggled academically, motivationally, and socially throughout their school years begin to get excited. Through applied learning and one-on-one mentoring by YTA staff, instructors, and career engineers, they begin to see beyond the limitations that they have placed upon themselves. They start to realize that they can achieve, that their studies are relevant, and that they – both as individuals and as part of a team – can contribute to the solution of real-world challenges.

Through participation in YTA programs, these students mature into capable and responsible young adults who, when they complete their YTA program(s) and graduate from high school, are presented with career and educational opportunities that they never would have envisioned prior to coming into YTA.

For a more comprehensive overview of YTA participant demographics, click here.

Partners, Funders, and Sponsors

WIA awards continue to provide core funding for the current YTA programs. Cuyahoga Community College serves as YTA’s fiscal agent, providing administrative and systems support, as well as access to its manufacturing facilities and labs. Supplemental program funding is provided by monetary and in-kind donations, business and industry sponsorships, and foundation awards.

YTA is grateful for the support of its current and past partners and sponsors, each of which has contributed immeasurably to our success:

Cuyahoga Community College
City of Cleveland/Cuyahoga County Workforce Investment Board (WIB)
The National Science Foundation
NASA Glenn Research Center
Ohio Board of Regents
• Cleveland TechWorks
• Dolphin Trust
FirstEnergy Corporation
Ford Motor Company
The George Gund Foundation
The Martha Holden Jennings Foundation
• McGinty Family Foundation
The Abington Foundation
Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute
Cleveland Public Library
Swiger Coil Systems, LLC

Proven Success

Data compiled over the course of YTA’s history support the effectiveness of its approach to technology education and its success in preparing young people for career success.

One success indicator YTA employs to assess its effectiveness is a comparison of OGT (Ohio Graduation Test) scores for CMSD YTA and non-YTA students. Administered twice annually, passage of this five-part series of proficiency tests is a requirement for graduation from an Ohio high school. CMSD students participating in the YTA in-school program outperformed other CMSD students by 11 to 18 points in all five portions of the OGT (writing, reading, social studies, mathematics, and science) and met or exceeded the statewide average in two of these areas.

Every CMSD student who has participated in the YTA in-school youth program has graduated from high school (compared to a four-year (2006-2009) average of 56% for CMSD and 86% statewide). Of these graduating YTA students, 64.8% subsequently completed two years of post-secondary education; 21.7% completed four years of college. The 13.7% who elected not to pursue secondary education have gone directly into the technical workforce.

For more detailed information about YTA student success, click here.


YTA’s innovative approach to youth-serving programs, technology education, and workforce development has earned both local and national attention:

2004 City of Cleveland Youth Provider of the Year
IBM Outstanding Educator Award (George Bilokonsky, YTA Director)
2005 NCSD (National Council on Student Development) Exemplary Practice Award
2006 City-Year Idealism in Action Award
2007 City of Cleveland/Cuyahoga County Workforce Development Department Youth Provider of the Year Award

In addition, the YTA Red Dragons varsity robotics team has competed both regionally and nationally since its establishment in 2004, earning honors at the following FIRST Robotics and other competitions:

2004            Winner, Kent State University Robotics Challenge

2005            Runner-Up, FIRST Florida Regional Robotics Competition

2006            Engineering Inspiration Award, FIRST Palmetto (South Carolina) Regional Robotics Competition

2007            Division Winner and National Finalist, FIRST Robotics Championship, Atlanta, Georgia

                   Winner, FIRST Florida Regional Robotics Competition

                   Judges’ Award, FIRST Florida Regional Robotics Competition

2008            Team Spirit Award, FIRST Florida Regional Robotics Competition

2010            Team Spirit Award, FIRST Florida Regional Robotics Competition