Q & A: Michelle Collins, vice president, ConxusNEO

In 2015, a nationwide public-private initiative called TechHire was implemented in communities across the U.S. to address the shortage of qualified workers to fill open tech positions — which at the time was about 500,000 and projected to surge to 1 million by 2020. TechHire’s goal is to help companies fill in-demand tech jobs with individuals who have completed high-quality training. ConxusNEO, an Akron-based nonprofit, is convening those efforts locally. Michelle Collins, its vice president, elaborates:

Q: What does the local job market in IT look like?

A: There is only one college graduate for every six entry-level postings, so there is a great opportunity to find a tech job in Northeast Ohio. We want both the youth and adult populations to learn about viable tech careers and training opportunities — from credentials that can be earned in high school to accelerated training options.

Q: What types of tech jobs are in highest demand in Northeast Ohio?

A: Software developers, computer and information analysts, computer support specialists, and database and network systems administrators. Most IT job ads seek to hire experienced workers with at least three to five years of relevant experience. Ads to find senior personnel typically want to hire workers with six or more years in IT and/or the employers’ industry. This leaves about 25% of all IT job ads with openings with little job experience. Most require a bachelor’s degree.

Q: Can job candidates bypass the bachelor’s degree requirement?

A: TechHire is a skills-based hiring initiative, so it’s our hope companies will shift their hiring practices to also consider candidates with skills gained from non-traditional pathways. The data show colleges and universities aren’t able to keep up the pace to graduate enough students to meet demand. A shift in companies’ practices will increase their talent pool.

Q: What types of skills are employers looking for when it comes to tech jobs?

A: The technical skills for a software developer include SQL, Microsoft C#, JAVA and .NET. The skills for an entry-level support specialist are primarily Microsoft Office suite. The work-ready skills in most job postings include communication, writing, problem solving, troubleshooting and teamwork.

Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to pursue a career in tech?

A: Anyone interested in pursuing a tech career is encouraged to learn more about the IT training provided by our partners, including University of Akron, The Software Guild, Stark State College and We Can Code IT.

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Carr, Kathy Ames.  (2017, July 17).  Q & A: Michelle Collins, vice president, ConxusNEO.  Retrieved from