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ConxusNEO workforce development initiative launches in Summit County

March 15, 2016

Summit County businesses starved for talent got a new ally as county, Akron and business leaders announced the unveiling of a new workforce development effort dubbed ConxusNEO.

The project -- which replaces the Summit Workforce Solutions initiative and has been in the works for a year now -- will combine heavy data analysis with on-the-ground work among businesses, schools and advocates to match the needs of employers with the educational opportunities for students and other local residents.

“We know that ConxusNEO will create more opportunities for people who have been left behind,” ConxusNEO president Sue Lacy told an audience of community and business leaders gathered March 15 to hear about the new effort.

ConxusNEO's most visible element might be its website, www.conexus.jobs, which will allow job seekers and hiring companies to match up.

But its real work will go far beyond a website, Lacy and other organizers promised. And ConxusNEO's ultimate goal will be to steer more students and adults into education and training programs that match up the demand for real skills in the area economy. That means encouraging young students to participate more in math and science and to consider engineering and manufacturing careers. It also means helping adults get job training at places like coding boot camps that teach computer programming.

That would be welcome news to area employers, who say they’ve had open jobs but not the skilled workers to fill them.

“One of the things that data told us early on was that manufacturing jobs were growing here in Summit County after the Great Recession, but young people weren’t inclined to enter that field,” said Chris Thompson, director of regional engagement at the Fund for Our Economic Future.

At the same time, Thompson said, manufacturers were reporting that many of their existing skilled workers were at or nearing retirement – leaving a skills gap that could hinder their business growth.

Filling that skills gap is a major challenge that the city of Akron must address going forward, said the city’s new mayor, Dan Horrigan.

“A couple of reports have come out recently about the city of Akron and some things we need to do. Better communication is one -- but it’s also filling those skills gaps and giving people more opportunity,” Horrigan said. “We can do a lot better.”

Business leaders who have helped get ConxusNEO started said they are hopeful it can help them, as well as the city and its residents.

Greg Kall, chief information officer for Summa Health System in Akron, said it’s always a challenge to keep his department of more than 220 information-technology professionals fully staffed, but he thinks ConxusNEO can help.

“It’s difficult to attract folks to this area. I compete against Cleveland on a regular basis for IT talent, and if we could create a good infrastructure here, matching talent to the need, we can be very successful,” Kall said.

Read original article here.

Shingler, Dan. (2016, March 15).  Conexus workforce development initiative launches in Summit County.  Crain's Cleveland Business. Retrieved from http://www.crainscleveland.com/article/20160315/NEWS/160319877/conexus-workforce-development-initiative-launches-in-summit-county.