By Jim Wilkins
If you are the typical employer in NE Ohio (or beyond), the answer to the foregoing question is a firm “yes.” Before we tackle this issue, let’s pause for a minute and be grateful for this dilemma. Having too many jobs and seemingly not enough qualified workers is certainly better than what we experienced in 2007-2009, when unemployment was high because there weren’t enough jobs during the recession!
K|W|W professionals consistently hear that a huge challenge for our clients is finding and keeping high-quality employees. This challenge spans all sectors of the economy: blue-collar, white-collar, manufacturing, healthcare, service-sector, public-sector, etc. For many employers, recruitment difficulties are standing in the way of business growth or, worse still, preventing satisfactory service to existing customers.
Consistent with K|W|W’s tagline – Your Workforce. Our Priority. – we wanted to do our small part to help address this workforce development issue. That’s one reason we became a sponsor of the Align event in Fairlawn on April 11th. Align was a half-day conference sponsored by ConxusNEO, an Akron-based non-profit that is focused on workforce development. Over 200 leaders of business, government, and education came together to learn about and brainstorm solutions that will build a sustainable talent pipeline for our region.
ConxusNEO has taken a different approach to workforce development. Rather than focusing on the needs of individuals who need jobs, ConxusNEO focuses on the needs of employers. At K|W|W, we can relate to that!
ConxusNEO routinely asks employers: Are you are able to find and hire people that have the skills you need? If not, how can we help you to fix that? Where employers identify gaps in the skill set of workers in the labor market, ConxusNEO helps make connections between county, city, education, public and private entities, and businesses that will bridge the skill gap for the benefit of employers.
There are a myriad of reasons for the current labor shortage: shortcomings in the education system; potential workers with criminal and substance-abuse histories; and the lack of technical skills needed for many jobs, even so-called “entry-level” jobs, in our increasingly high-tech, segmented economy. The list of obstacles goes on…
However, the difficulty in finding and hiring qualified workers is exacerbated by the disconnect that often exists between employers who have open jobs and workers who arguably have the skill and ability to perform them. Speakers at the Align conference offered a data-driven look at some of the problems, as well as the solutions that ConxusNEO can offer.
For example, ConxusNEO has created Industry Sector Partnerships in the manufacturing, tech, and healthcare sectors to facilitate collaboration between employers in each of those sectors to solve their shared recruitment challenges. Some challenges that are too big for a single employer to solve on its own become more manageable through the collaboration of many employers.
ConxusNEO also connects employers to community resources to help find underemployed workers who aspire to better jobs. It connects employers to organizations that help prepare the “second chance” segment of our workforce: those who have been incarcerated, or who have dealt with substance abuse or mental health challenges. Based on the current labor market, not to mention shifts in the law (e.g. ban the box, EEOC guidance on use of criminal backgrounds to screen applicants), some employers are open to seeking second chance workers. The efficacy of this approach is supported by the data: statistics show that, with the passage of time, those previously convicted of certain crimes like robbery or burglary are actually less likely to commit another criminal offense than the general population.
The success rate of second chance workers increases when they are better prepared for good jobs. More than ever, there are community resources focused on preparing second chance workers. One government resource is Ohio Means Jobs. Faith-based examples in the Akron area include South Street Ministries and Truly Reaching You.
The shortage of workers with appropriate skills can also be addressed through “upskill”: promoting and retaining existing employees by teaching them new skills. Even a small employer can leverage its limited resources by connecting with existing community resources for training and development of its current workforce.
Recruitment is a pressing challenge. It is a challenge shared by most employers. The good news is that resources are available, if you know where to look. Yes, this is a shameless “plug” for ConxusNEO because of its expertise in helping employers make valuable connections. Check out its website at http://www.conxusneo.jobs. More than just a plug, this is written in the spirit of demonstrating commitment to our tagline: Your Workforce. Our Priority.