Team NEO is trying to take its skills-gap data into the real world.
The latest edition of the Aligning Opportunities report was released in May 2018. The report identifies areas of job demand and how well those match up with the credentials students are actually earning. And it took a close look at the supply and demand in manufacturing, health care and information technology.
This year, Aligning Opportunities is less of a report and more of a program, said Sydney Martis, research manager at Team NEO.
On May 6, Team NEO held the first of three planned Aligning Opportunities events. The first forum was focused on manufacturing and held at a Vitamix facility in Strongsville. There will also be forums on health care and IT before the launch event for the new report in July. Delta Dental is sponsoring the Aligning Opportunities report and related programming in 2019.
Attendees at the first forum included everyone from manufacturers to HR and technology companies and from government agencies to schools. That’s intentional. Martis said Team NEO wanted to give these different groups the chance to talk directly to one another.
“The unique thing about what we’re doing this year is we’re really trying to bring our partners together so that we are aligned with what we are doing, the story we are telling and how we’re working together to overcome these talent challenges,” Martis said.
In the few years that Team NEO has been producing the Aligning Opportunities report, Jacob Duritsky, vice president, strategy and research, said he has seen the community embrace the idea that the “misalignment” isn’t due to any one institution or industry, but that everyone has to deal with it if they want better business development outcomes.
Team NEO wants to “quantify” the problem, Duritsky said.
“What this ultimately became is a bit of a call to action for the region that says: We know we have challenges. We know others do, too,” Duritsky said. “But by defining it, by quantifying it, we think, ultimately, we can start to convene folks in a more meaningful way that drives regional solutions.”
Attendees of the first forum had the chance to share some of the challenges they’re seeing to hiring, like transportation or attendance, as well as potential solutions they’re trying, such as ensuring high school students get exposure to the industry. The conversation didn’t go deep, but it was broad.
Though the discussion skewed more toward concerns than solutions, Duritsky said that was the balance he expected. As long as Team NEO can gather two or three possible case studies for the 2019 report from each event, it will be satisfied.
Some possible strategies he plans to follow up on from the first meeting are the Akron Public Schools’ academies, which will expose students to different career paths, and Vitamix’s approach to internal career paths.
This is designed to be just the start of the conversation.
In the fall, Martis said, Team NEO hopes to work with its partners in manufacturing, health care and IT to create programming to expose K-12 students to those different career paths.
And Team NEO would like to create something of a talent development council in the region, Duritsky said, pulling together representatives from business and higher education.
Team NEO is far from the only organization in the region trying to tackle the skills gap in in-demand industries. For example, there’s the public-private partnerships of Workforce Connect in Cuyahoga County, of which Team NEO is part, aimed at addressing the skills gap in manufacturing, health care and IT. There is also the workforce development agency ConxusNEO in Summit County. It was clear that Team NEO’s efforts in the skills-gap space had to be “complementary” toward the economic development work already going on, not duplicative, Duritsky said.
Team NEO’s goal is to provide the data needed for those efforts and to amplify the efforts in a way that benefits the whole region.
ConxusNEO has been working with Team NEO, MAGNET, RITE, the Greater Cleveland Partnership and other organizations looking to produce labor-market information, said ConxusNEO president Sue Lacy.
“We all realize that we want to be singing out of the same hymnbook,” Lacy said. “Gone are the days where we’re interested individually in producing reports that, just because of the way we might view the data, it might show a slightly different picture.”
Now, the goal is to determine how to best use each organization’s individual strengths. For example, ConxusNEO has developed an approach to illustrate career pathways, Lacy said. That work began as part of the Akron Public Schools’ move to an academies model for high schools, but can be applied elsewhere.
Ethan Karp, CEO and president of MAGNET, thinks workforce development efforts have to be local, but that sharing possible solutions and strategies regionwide makes sense. MAGNET is one of the leaders of Workforce Connect’s manufacturing sector partnership.
Ultimately, Karp said he thinks the skills gap is too large for one organization to take on. He likens it to the start of the auto industry, when instead of a few large companies, there were a lot of small ones. That led to innovation.
In terms of the skills gap, once there are some solutions that work at scale, he expects people will gravitate to them. But for now? Even if there’s some redundancy in the region, most of the programs he sees are taking on the skills gap in slightly different ways. And that, Karp said, is “all part of the innovation process.”Letter
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McCafferty, Rachel Abbey. (2019, May 12). Team NEO trying to align region’s supply and demand. Crain’s Cleveland Business. Retrieved from https://www.crainscleveland.com/manufacturing/team-neo-trying-align-regions-supply-and-demand