When asked, many CEOs will tell you that attracting, training and retaining great talent is the biggest challenge they face in growing their business. I’m guessing this is true for many of you reading this article. We know that our companies need talent to grow and drive the economy. And yet in the Greater Akron area, we also know that many jobs go unfilled. Additionally, we know that many of our citizens can’t land and keep a job.
Unemployment hovers at 5.9 percent in Summit County and 6.3 percent in the City of Akron. So what gives? When you see companies looking for people and people looking for jobs and precious few on either side finding what they are looking for, you have to ask the question: Where is the disconnect?
Bridging the skills gap
Increasingly, many in the community are identifying that disconnect as the “skills gap,” which is another way of saying that companies can find people, but struggle to find people who have the kinds of skills they need. Those on the other side of the skills gap — the unemployed people seeking work — want to understand what those needed skills are and what they should learn in order to make themselves competitive for the unfilled jobs.
At GAR Foundation, we care about the skills gap because we know that it disrupts the virtuous cycle of quality education leading to good jobs that lead to community prosperity. The good news is key players in our community have targeted bridging of the skills gap as their No. 1 priority.
The Akron Public Schools is first among the groups tackling this issue as it pertains to our youth — the workforce of tomorrow. Over the next few years, APS will roll out the College and Career Academies of Akron in all of its high school buildings. Because the Academies’ approach stands to be a game-changer in our community’s quest to prepare talent, it’s smart business for all companies in Greater Akron to know about it.
A distinctive strength
The Academies’ national model implemented successfully in many communities is built around giving students opportunities to pursue their interests and passions connected to the high-demand careers in our region’s economy. Teachers and businesses jointly design curriculum and learning experiences so that students learn the necessary academic theory behind various careers and they practice that theory by solving real-life problems in real-life settings.
There are opportunities galore for local companies to step forward and help to shape the Academies, such as giving input on needed skills, and hosting internships, job shadowing for students and teachers, and more.
Supporting the Academies’ work is not just an altruistic pursuit for a business. On the contrary, it’s in your company’s enlightened self-interest, as this work will shape the future workforce that you need in order to grow. Learn more at https://sites.google.com/apslearns.org/ccaa/home and do your part to make Greater Akron’s talent pool a distinctive strength.
Christine Amer Mayer is president of GAR Foundation, which awards grants to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations in Summit and adjacent counties in the areas of education, arts and arts education, health and social services, and civic and nonprofit enhancement.