If you are looking for a job but don’t think you have what it takes to work in today’s sophisticated manufacturing or information technology environment, a whole lot of people want you to reconsider.
That’s in large part because a whole lot of Summit County businesses say they now are looking to hire people who have what they see as the right basic skills, not work experience.
Welcome to Conexus, a program more than a year in the making.
Summit County government, local schools, businesses and others are collaborating on what they believe is a smarter, more comprehensive way to connect employers with new employees.
Conexus is being launched at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at an event and panel discussion hosted by manufacturer SGS Tool in Cuyahoga Falls. Conexus, a rebranded organization that succeeds Summit Workforce Solutions, will operate out of the Ohio Means Jobs center at 1040 E. Tallmadge Ave. in Akron.
“Our primary goal is to connect work to prosperity,” said Sue Lacy, president of Summit Workforce Solutions, who will oversee Conexus.
“We connect job seekers to good jobs and careers that have a sustainable wage … even above a livable wage,” Lacy said. “We work really hard to understand the talent needs of many companies.”
Job seekers will be able to go to the Conexus website — www.conexus.jobs — and look for work, she said. And companies looking for employees will have access to a database of prospects as well, Lacy said.
The newly named partnership among businesses, public schools, education and training organizations, nonprofits and others grew out of a review of Summit Workforce Solutions and the needs of the community, said Russ Pry, Summit County executive.
“We went through a very deliberative process about what a demand-driven work program would look like,” Pry said. “It needed to be employer driven.”
The group last June began redesigning Summit Workforce Solutions to coordinate the new program.
The Northeast Ohio-based Fund for our Economic Future became involved, as did the GAR Foundation, United Way and Akron Community Foundation, Pry said. Other partners include the Summit County Manufacturing Network and TalentNEO.
Better and more employment benefits the community in many ways, Pry said. People with jobs “are less likely to be in the welfare system, you are less likely to be in my jail, you are more likelier to be happy,” he said.
Conexus grew in part out of Akron and Summit County being named a TechHire community last year by the White House. The designation made the county eligible for multimillion-dollar federal grants aimed at providing training to job seekers. As part of that, Summit Workforce Solutions just submitted a $4 million grant proposal to help identify the skills most in demand by employers in the county.
Organizers had educators from Conexus partner Akron Public Schools take tours of local companies, including manufacturers, so they could see firsthand workplace environments and hear the needs of employers. Additional tours are also planned.
Akron-based Software Guild, which trains people how to write software code, is part of Conexus as well.
“I’m excited about the partnership,” said Eric Wise, Guild co-founder and its chief academic officer. Conexus will help people get to where they want to go, he said.
“The whole thing is very exciting,” said Jenny Stupica, human resources manager for Twinsburg-based metal fittings manufacturer SSP. She is among the private sector participants with Conexus.
Conexus is intended in part to help job seekers find opportunities they didn’t know about or did not think they were qualified for, Stupica said.
Public schools, in turn, will teach the kind of skills to students that employers say they need. Other educational partners, which include the Software Guild and Stark State College, will provide training to adults.
That means companies such as SSP will get a much greater pool of job candidates, Stupica said.
Job seekers will need to take an ACT WorkKeys assessment test for math, reading and information-seeking skills.
The end result of Conexus may be a job pairing that neither a company nor a job seeker expected, Stupica said.
The thinking for businesses is, “I’m looking for a skill set. I will train you so you are successful in my facility,” she said. That training may involve mentoring, classroom or on-the-job learning, she said.
“It’s a beautiful thing from my perspective,” Stupica said. “There’s a shortage of people with experience in manufacturing. That’s different from a skills shortage.”
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ. His stories can be found at www.ohio.com/writers/jim-mackinnon.