Conexus unveils cross-sector campaign to connect companies with employees
— More than 50,000 new manufacturing jobs will open up over the next 10 years in Northeast Ohio, but many local job-seekers have historically been unaware of the bounty of opportunities available in technical and skilled trades.
Conexus, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting talent development in Summit County, will help pull together public, private, philanthropic and nonprofit organizations to strengthen the connection between companies and job-seekers. The organization, formerly Summit Workforce Solutions, celebrated its new identity earlier this week, along with Akron and Summit County officials, educational and nonprofit leaders, and other key players in local workforce development.
At a kickoff event at SGS Tools in Cuyahoga Falls, Conexus President Sue Lacy issued a call to action for those in attendance and offered a number of real-world examples of how her organization has impacted the local manufacturing community, with comments from employers and skilled workers themselves.
“We work hard to better understand the talent needs of companies and cultivate a system that delivers that talent,” said Lacy.
SGS makes sold carbide cutting tools and sells them in over 60 countries around the world. Reps from SGS and other local manufacturers were on hand to say that not only will Conexus help to match more talented workers to their companies, but that prospective employees from underserved and minority populations, who may have otherwise never considered these types of careers, will be connected to their businesses as well. Companies also say the face of manufacturing has changed, as many shop floors are now clean and workers’ roles are more those of technicians than machinists.
This type of program will help break down the silos that exist in our community and close the skills gap that exists, said Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan, who added, “A thriving Akron is good for the region.”
Summit County Councilwoman Ilene Shapiro told attendees, “We’re offering opportunity for the future. Something they can see and build upon and something that will drive Summit County to the next level.” This initiative, she added, will help create a workforce for the future and bring both families and companies to the region.
“If we do this right, we’ll bring in manufacturers from all over the state, all over the country and all over the world,” said Summit County Executive Russ Pry. “We will have a world-class talent system in place that truly will connect work and prosperity.”
Summit County conducted an assessment of the county’s workforce, and the workforce development collaborative will follow a similar model used by Summit Education Initiative (SEI), which pulls together dozens of agencies, schools and other organizations to create a “Cradle to Career” continuum, providing resources for people from pre-kindergarten to well after high school graduation. Pry said the county hopes Conexus can do to workforce development what SEI has done for education.
Chris Thompson, director of regional engagement for the Fund for Our Economic Future, cited research from Team NEO, pointing out that while manufacturing jobs increased after the Great Recession, the number of young people entering this sector of the workforce has decreased, making the work of this organization even more vital if it wants to build a “world-class talent system.”
The stated goal of Conexus is to “connect work to prosperity,” and the nonprofit has been working on two initiatives: TalentNEO, a hiring pilot that that uses skills-based assessments to connect employers with a larger pool of potential employees; and TechHire, which answers the demand for IT workers through skills-based training.
Conexus also has launched a site, conexus.jobs, which will serve as a resource for companies, career seekers and educators in the community.