Creating Growth & Opportunity for Northeast Ohioans

With a workforce of two million strong, Northeast Ohio’s
diverse talent pool is one of the region’s greatest assets.
Home to more than 25 accredited colleges and universities, the
region provides access to skilled talent in a number of diverse
fields that support our regional economy.  As a skilled
workforce is a necessary component to any healthy and growing
economy, a number of regional initiatives have been started to
ensure Northeast Ohio is able to align the needs of the business
community with the right set of talent. In doing this, these
initiatives aim to create opportunities for Northeast Ohio

Growth & Opportunity

Helping to lead the charge in this area is the Fund for Our
Economic Future – a non-profit organization that pools the
philanthropic resources of its members in order to strengthen and
sustain Northeast Ohio’s economy and increase access to
opportunity for all people. Key to the Fund’s work is its
Growth & Opportunity strategy. Growth & Opportunity looks
at how job creation and economic growth must also be tied to
opportunity for all – not just those at the top of the income
ladder. As such, Growth & Opportunity focuses on three
essential areas: job creation, job preparation and job access. In
order for true economic growth to occur, these three factors must
all be coordinated and addressed. To this end, a number of notable
programs exist throughout Northeast Ohio that focus on various
aspects of the Growth & Opportunity strategy.

Regional Workforce Initiatives

WorkAdvance is a perfect example. The
WorkAdvance program is a national initiative launched by the New
York City Mayor’s Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO);
Towards Employment leads Northeast Ohio’s WorkAdvance
project.  The program is designed to assist unemployed and
low-wage working adults by finding good quality jobs in targeted
sectors. In doing this, WorkAdvance seeks to meet the needs of the
business community while creating opportunities for those that may
have been overlooked otherwise. As the Fund for Our Economic Future
highlighted in this video, more than 400 Northeast Ohio employers
have hired WorkAdvance participants; of the more than 350
participants placed in jobs, 40 percent have advanced, earning
average wage increases of 25 percent.

David Cleckner is a shining example of the WorkAdvance program
in action. After his losing his job, David became a participant in
WorkAdvance in 2013. WorkAdvance helped David join a welding
program, providing him with some financial assistance along the
way. Thanks to WorkAdvance, David has been able to transfer the
welding skills he acquired into a profitable career that provides
opportunity for advancement. David’s story is just one
example of how programs like WorkAdvance are having a positive
impact in Northeast Ohio.

In Summit County, a new initiative called Conexus is also
working to address workforce-related issues. Officially launched on
March 15, 2016, Conexus aims to connect job seekers with companies
looking to hire needed talent. According to their website,
“Conexus is catalyzing growth and opportunity in Summit
County by working hard to understand the talent needs of area
companies and to cultivate a demand-driven, data-informed system
that meets those needs.” Conexus is focused on three primary
areas that include:

  • Giving companies greater access to talent
  • Providing residents with clear pathways to prosperity
  • Aligning job preparation with demand

One of Conexus’ most important elements will be its
website, which will serve as a matchmaking portal for companies and
job seekers. In addition, “Conexus’ 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”- particularly in engineering and manufacturing. As
demand for talent grows in these fields, the need for skilled
workers continues to mount, which make programs like Conexus all
the more important.

A similar effort has taken root in Youngstown called the
JobsNow Workforce Initiative. Created to help
close the gap between the demand for skilled labor and the supply
of workforce-ready employees in the Valley, the JobsNow Workforce
Initiative aims to establish a one-stop service to promote
available jobs, provide workforce data to local educators and
assess candidates for job fit and readiness. The program is a joint
effort being led by the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber in
partnership with OhioMeansJobs and WKBN in Youngstown. In the first
year, the program aims to attract 3,500 applicants.

Looking Ahead

Ultimately, as Northeast Ohio looks to remain economically
competitive, workforce programs like those highlighted above will
continue to play an integral role in the region’s overall
success.  Across all industry segments, Northeast Ohio expects
to add nearly 123,000 jobs by 2025, representing a six percent
increase in total employment. Areas like healthcare and
manufacturing production top the list in terms of occupations with
the greatest demand in the coming decade and thus represent fields
with tremendous opportunity for local residents. Overall, nearly
640,000 job openings are expected by 2025, taking into account
retirements and turnover. In order to fill these openings, the
region will need a talented, skilled workforce.

Just as importantly, the region must ensure it is connecting all
members of our region with these opportunities.  Unless we are
creating economic growth and opportunity,
our region will not reap the full benefits of its efforts.