ConxusNEO’s expanded Align conference will turn to IT skills gap

Jill Oldham of the Akron Canton Regional Foodbank works on a graphic recording of suggestions and trends discussed at the brainstorming World Cafe session at ConxusNEO’s 2017 Align conference.


The region’s stakeholders are ready to come together again to look at how educators, workforce groups and employers can work together to build a talent pipeline — this time in information technology.ConxusNEO will hold its Align conference on Tuesday, April 17, at the Hilton Akron/Fairlawn, 3180 W. Market St., Akron. The timing was purposeful as it falls during OHTech’s Tech Week.

Last year’s inaugural Align conference tackled the manufacturing skills gap.

“This was the logical next step for the Align event in terms of industry focus,” said Sue Lacy, president of ConxusNEO, a workforce development agency in Summit County that seeks to match local training initiatives with the needs of area employers.

Last fall, ConxusNEO released its report about the IT skills gap in Northeast Ohio, and it showed there was a pretty big disparity in how many job IT job openings were posted and how many qualified candidates schools and programs are turning out.

The report found that stakeholders need to pay attention to the middle-skill position just as much as entry-level positions, Lacy said, adding that 53% of all openings are in the mid-skill positions.

Couple those findings with new programs coming to the Akron area — such as DriveIT, which will focus on mid-career IT training, and We Can Code IT, a coding boot camp — and this year’s focus on IT makes a lot of sense.

This year, ConxusNEO is partnering with Akron’s Bounce Innovation Hub to bring a bigger Align with added programming. The intent remains the same: to bring stakeholders — employers, educators and civic leaders — from across Summit County together to not only share ideas, but to come up with action plans going forward.

The day will include a look at the real demand for tech skills, with presenters from Regional Information Technology Engagement, ConxusNEO and DriveIT. Keynote speaker Jon Hallsten, president of Hallsten Innovations, will discuss the opportunities technology can bring to the workplace and how the Internet of Things is changing how we do business.

New this year will be an industry panel discussion to delve further into the ideas from the keynote address, Lacy said. In addition to Lacy, panelists are Hallsten; Tanya Arthur, chief information officer at Summa Health; John Jones, human resource director at GOJO; Matthew Putnam, chief executive officer at Nanotronics; and Scott Noerr, CIO at National Interstate Insurance.

With technology advancing so rapidly, the panel discussion is going to specifically explore new employment roles that haven’t been established or are newly established, Lacy said.

“We’re thrilled that we have partners that we’re already working with (who are) helping us shape the conversation about how we have got to respond with new roles in this space and new skills as advances in technology are accelerating at an exponential rate,” Lacy said of the panelists.

Also new this year and an obvious influence of Bounce are afternoon breakout sessions that focus on tech workforce challenges facing startups. Lacy said ConxusNEO worked with Bounce program director Courtney Gras to come up with that programming.

And back again this year is the popular World Café. To harness the room’s brain power, attendees break into groups, where tables discuss common questions and then share insights with the larger group to foster dialogue. The whole session is chronicled with a graphic recording so participants can visualize concrete takeaways.

The group brainstorming is essential to Align and its problem-solving mission, Lacy said.

“That cross-pollination of ideas almost becomes magical. That’s the secret sauce of events like Align,” Lacy said.

She said the World Café will give stakeholders a road map for collective action.

“This is not an event where we just learn and connect and talk,” she said. “By the end of the day, we will have set some priorities for action and participants will have the opportunity to jump in and roll up their sleeves after this event.”

She said that the work to address the manufacturing skills gap continued long after last year’s conference, and this year’s attendees will get an update on what’s been done.

Organizers are aiming for 300 attendees at this year’s event, which is not only for IT companies, Lacy said. Any company that hires tech talent is encouraged to attend, as well as educators.

Lacy said that people have got great ideas as individuals, but when they can engage in dialogue, they seem to really open up and the best ideas float to the top.

Registration is available online.

Read original article here.

Walton, Sue. (2018, April 9). ConxusNEO’s expanded Align conference will turn to IT skills gap.Crain’s Cleveland Business. Retrieved from