Akron event highlights challenges for region’s IT sector but offers solutions, too

Akron’s getting a technical problem and some practical solutions all at once.

ConxusNEO, a nonprofit that works with area companies to match their workforce needs with local education and training, is revealing today, Thursday, Oct. 5, the results of its research on occupations in the information technology sector in a report called “Understanding the IT Skills Gap in Northeast Ohio.”

ConxusNEO is discussing its findings at an event called TechHire at the Akron Global Business Accelerator.

Simultaneously – and by recent happenstance, he said – Software Guild founder Eric Wise also will announce at TechHire a new worker training initiative he’s planned for Akron that will be offered via what he said will resemble more of “a gym membership” than a formal class structure.

It won’t surprise most in the industry – or anyone who has read the report’s title – but there’s a big difference between how many job openings are posting in the IT sector and how many graduates area schools and programs turn out to fill them each year.

“There is only one graduate for every six postings for entry-level positions. That’s pretty concerning,” said Michelle Collins, ConxusNEO vice president and the leader of about six months of research that resulted in the report she was set to discuss with business leaders, educators and others interested in IT and its workforce.

The ConxusNEO research was conducted with the Regional Information Technology Engagement (RITE) board, a regional collaboration focused on IT workforce issues that includes Cleveland State and Baldwin Wallace universities, along with Cuyahoga Community and Lorain Community colleges.

Collins said it dives deeper than looking at the degree to which an overall technical skills gap exists. Instead, the research looks specifically at individual occupations. By examining job postings and graduation and training information — and talking directly with tech employers — researchers got a good look at issues challenging technical employers.

And those employers are not just technical companies, either. They include any business that needs its own IT department, Collins said.

She found some surprises — in more ways than one.

For one thing, she said, the research showed that not all tech jobs in Northeast Ohio are starving for applicants.

“We’re not just distinguishing between supply and demand … but we’re really going down and looking at it by occupation. We can’t just make a blanket statement that ‘there’s a shortage of technical grads,’ because in some areas there’s an oversaturation,” she said.

For example, researchers found that there were more network administrators in the area than jobs available – though, Collins was quick to add that one participant in the research discussion groups said his company was about to go looking to fill just such positions.

It doesn’t surprise some in the technical training industry that there are gluts, and network administration is one area where Wise of the Software Guild in Akron said demand has fallen off.

“With so many networks moving to the cloud, there’s just not as much demand,” he said. “Unless you want to move to where there’s a large data center.”

The point of the research, though, is to help traditional educators and potential students get an idea of where the best tech jobs are, based on local demand for specific positions, Collins said.

A student preparing a course of study might not realize that demand for network administrators has fallen in just the past few years.

All told, though, the IT field is hungry for talent and rife with opportunities for applicants, both Collins and Wise said.

There are more than 20,000 IT job openings advertised per year in Northeast Ohio, Collins said. For most of them, demand for applicants is high and competition is fierce enough to cause companies to raid one another’s workforces. There are 30 ads placed for software developers for every graduate from a local, IT-related bachelor’s program.

“The sky is the limit if you’re a computer science major. There are a ton, just a ton, of opportunities for you,” Collins said.

At the same time that ConxusNEO is unveiling its report, Wise will be talking about his next idea, something called DriveIT, which he said will provided training for incumbent workers.

It’s a departure from the coding boot camps that Wise and others teach at the Software Guild, though will continue to personally teach those through at least the current course schedule before turning his attention to DriveIT.

But Wise said technical people need to keep up with and expand their training for both upward and lateral mobility at their companies.

Wise said he’ll offer training in areas like web and mobile development, cybersecurity and database intelligence, as well as “soft skills” such as technical writing, project management and even conflict resolution.

Anyone can sign up, he said, but what he’s focusing on first is the corporate arena, where he hopes to sell multiuser subscriptions that enable a company’s employees to participate in any aspect of DriveIT’s training.

While his new venture might not train people for entry-level positions, there’s a demand for workers at all levels of IT and entry-level workers often need those above them to move up or over to advance their own careers.

Wise said its sheer coincidence that he’s presenting at TechHire alongside ConxusNEO. He said Collins and ConxusNEO executive director Sue Lacy asked him to after he walked into their office just a couple of weeks ago to discuss IT workforce issues, as they often do.

“I didn’t know this report was happening. I went in and said, ‘Here’s my next idea that I want to do,’ and their jaws just dropped,” Wise said. “I said, ‘You guys just did a report that justifies this entire new business.'”

Read original article here.

Shingler, Dan. (2017, October 5).  Akron Event Highlights Challenges for Region’s IT sector but offers solutions, too. Crain’s Cleveland Business. Retrieved from