Why CEOs should understand the cyber-threat environment

CEOs are likely aware that cybersecurity threats exists. However, their level of understanding often doesn’t reach the depth needed to mitigate the accompanying risks to their organizations.

“CEOs don’t need to be cybersecurity experts,” says Dr. Charles Dull, associate dean, IT Center of Excellence, Cuyahoga Community College. “But they should be aware of the issues so that they can speak intelligently with specialists and understand the problem enough to authorize an effective counter.”

Smart Business spoke with Dull about the value of being a CEO who is knowledgeable about cybersecurity issues.

What, generally, do C-suite executives understand the cyber threat environment?

Most CEOs would know whether their organization has a cybersecurity plan in place. But go one level deeper and ask what it contains, and most aren’t able to explain much. However, a better understanding of details such as what specific protections are being used, or what their incident response process is, should be seen as vital. That’s because CEOs need to be able to convey that information to their board, or to customers that might require their vendors to have certain cybersecurity measures in place. An inability to intelligently convey that information could lead to costly misunderstandings.

What sort of issues does that create for an organization?

CEOs control the funding needed to protect against cybersecurity threats. If IT staff tells the CEO that the organization has been defending itself against phishing expeditions or DDoS attacks and needs funding to bolster its defense, it’s important that CEOs understand what that means. It’s dangerous for CEOs to ignore reported threats, underfund or underequip a response, or even overfund a response.

CEOs are always concerned with dollars and often want to know what return they’ll get from an investment. When an expensive upgrade is required to improve an organization’s defense system, CEOs should have a reasonable sense of the requirements to make the right choice for the business. And, should the business face an attack, it’s better to have a CEO who knows enough to enable the IT staff to quickly address the issue rather than squabble over costs to a critical system or software. When emails are disabled or systems are locked by a cyber attack across an organization, significant losses can be incurred the longer it takes to fix the problem.

What harm could that do?

CEOs can certainly understand that the business is shut down. But it’s not always the case that they can understand fully the longer-term consequences of a successful attack.

Sometimes the harm done through the loss of personal information from a breach creates the basis for lawsuits. When the number of people affected is high, even settlements from such cases can be expensive. Those are costs, often ongoing, that occur after an initial breach that CEOs unfamiliar with cybersecurity issues don’t necessarily consider.

And there is more than just business risk when an information breach occurs. Employees’ personal information, as well as their families’ information, is also at risk. A breach could mean the banking and financial information, even health information, of their workforce could be leaked.

How can CEOs become more knowledgeable about cybersecurity issues?

CEOs should make time to learn more about the cyber threats facing their organizations so they can both understand and communicate with IT specialists to fully comprehend the issues and launch an appropriate response.

Those in the C-suite should also consider programs to help familiarize lower-level managers with the threat environment and how to recognize an attack so that those on or closer to the front lines can sound the alarm when a problem arises.

Understanding the language of cybersecurity is an important first step. That way, when specialists highlight an organizational exposure, those in charge of the purse strings can quickly allocate the funds to protect against it.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College

Helping health care employers connect with candidates

Employment opportunities in Northeast Ohio’s health care sector are, and have been, booming.

“It’s a huge driver of the regional economy, and there’s really so much opportunity to build a career in the field,” says Sue Krejci, executive director of the Workforce Connect Healthcare Sector Partnership at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C®).

The health care industry currently employs some 300,000 people in the area. Projections show that number increasing by 85,000 over the next decade, with COVID-19 creating immediate and urgent employment demands.

The impact of the virus has shone a light on the need to ensure that health care systems are well staffed. The Workforce Connect Healthcare Partnership is helping hospitals address talent shortages while building pathways to health care careers for Cuyahoga County job seekers.

Smart Business spoke with Krejci about how Northeast Ohio health care employers can fill their talent pipeline.

What are the biggest areas of need for Northeast Ohio health care organizations?

Northeast Ohio hospitals are huge organizations and safe and exciting places to work. They have needs in a wide variety of roles, ranging from highly technical positions that require advanced training to entry-level jobs. Every position plays a critical role in a hospital’s ability to function at the highest level.

Many roles put workers on the front line of patient care, while others fill behind-the-scenes needs in pharmacies and labs. For example, there are many opportunities for traditional clinical roles, such as nursing and medical assistants. But non-clinical positions in food service, janitorial and sterile processing are also in high demand.

How can Northeast Ohio health care organizations efficiently connect with candidates?

The Workforce Connect Healthcare Sector Partnership is committed to addressing employment needs in the health care sector and opening the funnel to get more area residents into the job pipeline.

One focus is on connecting with potential workers from underserved neighborhoods with high unemployment. We’re partnering with community organizations, educational institutions and workforce training providers to identify candidates and ensure they have the right training and support in place to offer a better chance at employment success.

What is Workforce Connect’s relationship with employers?

The Workforce Connect Healthcare Sector Partnership is shifting the paradigm, bringing hospital systems together to craft staffing solutions with support from Tri-C as the chosen intermediary. It’s a platform for employers to discuss common hiring challenges and create a shared strategy to engage the right job candidates, provide access to the right training and education and, ultimately, help people build careers in health care.

Another organizational emphasis is on working with education providers to align programs with employment needs. The goal is increase capacity for in-demand careers and ensure that people are training for jobs that will be available. It’s a system-building effort to make sure conversations continue to grow between employers and educational and training organizations.

There’s also a push to engage with younger people to make them aware of health care careers that may not be well known. For example, phlebotomy and sterile processing are two in-demand positions that have low recognition. By engaging with youth earlier, it’s possible to get these career fields on their radar. That can help address the workforce pipeline needs of area employers.

Ultimately, it’s about working collaboratively with education providers, employers and the community to make sure they’re all on the same page regarding the health care opportunities in Northeast Ohio.

If COVID-19 has made anything clear, it’s the vital role health care plays in people’s lives. Ensuring the resilience and effectiveness of Northeast Ohio’s health care organizations requires people — on the front lines as well as behind the scenes. It’s a great way to build a career and make a contribution to a field that’s doing so much to help the community.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College

Lack of awareness creates demand for biomedical engineering techs

Biomedical engineering technicians are trained to work in hospitals and maintain the myriad equipment used in the business of saving lives. However, when people hear the phrase “biomedical engineering” or “biomedical technology,” the tendency is to think of people doing grant work, researching a new prosthesis or developing new gene-editing techniques. And that misunderstanding is contributing to a gap between those who would fill those roles and the employers who need them.

“There are many people with the skills to do this important job who don’t understand what a biomedical engineering technician does,” says Dan Pack, an associate professor at Cuyahoga Community College. “Hospitals know what they’re looking for, as do third-party employers. And they’ve got more openings for these positions than there are skilled people to fill them.”

Smart Business spoke with Pack about biomedical engineering technology and why employers in this in-demand career field are struggling to keep their talent pipeline filled.

What do biomedical engineering technicians do and where are they most often employed?

Biomedical engineering technicians’ main responsibility is the upkeep and maintenance of medical equipment — for instance, medical equipment commonly found in hospitals. They perform safety checks to make sure everything is safe and operational, and troubleshoot equipment issues.

Through their education and training programs, biomedical engineering technicians are exposed to a lot of hospital equipment to understand how they work and how they affect human bodies. Biomedical engineering technology programs train participants not just on the principles of electronic engineering, but also on biomedical principles — exploring human organs and their functions — and on the biomedical equipment found in hospitals that those in the field will ultimately work with. That equipment could include fetal monitors, infusion pumps, ECGs and EKGs, defibrillators, ventilators, vital sign monitors and more. 

Hospitals often keep biomedical engineering technicians on staff, as do imaging and dialysis companies and third-party companies that work on hospital equipment. 

What opportunities exist for biomedical engineering technicians in Northeast Ohio? 

The demand for biomedical engineering technicians in the region is very strong. Schools that offer the training program are actively marketing to attract more candidates because employers need to fill their talent pipelines. 

Northeast Ohio is fortunate to have many world-class health care facilities, including Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals. Top-quality education and training programs have relationships with these employers and can connect students with valuable internships. In some cases, the hospitals connect with educators in advisory committee meetings, through which these employers help shape the education and training programs. 

What do employers look for in a biomedical engineering technician?

Employers are looking for candidates who have a two-year associate degree in electronic engineering with a concentration in biomedical technology — and there are only a few schools in the area that offer such a program. The concentration in biomedical technology means that the student has been introduced to more than 100 pieces of hospital equipment. Through hands-on practice with different makes and models, they develop a familiarity with the equipment. Biomedical technology students are also introduced to maintenance schedules and manuals for this equipment through their internships, which provide 360 hours of in-the-field training.

Employers are also looking for energetic employees who can work alone and in a team. They also prefer to hire certified biomedical equipment technicians, who have completed education requirements as well as two years of work in the field.

This is an under-recognized career field with a high demand for candidates. Northeast Ohio has many opportunities for qualified individuals who can maintain the critical equipment that hospitals need to perform their lifesaving work.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College

Why supervisory training should be provided for frontline managers

Frontline managers are supervisors who are usually the first or second level of response for critical day-to-day issues regarding people, customers and projects. They’re found across industries and are a key element between an organization’s core product or service and its customers. 

Employees are typically promoted to frontline manager positions because they’re great individual contributors. However, they often arrive at the role with little or no prior management experience.

“These frontline managers are critical to an organization’s operations,” says Jody M. Wheaton, executive director, Client Solutions and Programs, Corporate College, a division of Cuyahoga Community College. “These managers directly affect sales revenue and customer experience metrics, both of which have a significant impact on an organization. Managers in this role need to have the right tools to successfully lead their teams.”

Smart Business spoke with Wheaton about the critical role frontline managers play in organizations and why proper training is needed to ensure their effectiveness.

What are some reasons for the lack of frontline manager training?

Typical barriers include the investment required, a lack of available training resources, a lack of succession planning, employee turnover and an inability to demonstrate ROI.

When financial pressures mount, organizations tend to forgo management training — it can be considered too costly. In tough economic times, when organizations are budget watching, training and development can often be among the first programs cut. Additionally, an investment of resources is required, whether identifying third-party providers or maintaining an internal training and development team.

Regardless of the strength of the economy, when an organization’s upper management doesn’t see the value in training, it’s not provided. Instead of being proactive by identifying and preparing high-potential candidates for advancement, organizations often take a reactionary approach and suffer through challenges as the new leader adapts to their role and responsibilities.  

Some organizations don’t offer training because they’re worried employees will use that training to improve their skills just to find a job outside the organization. 

Lastly, building an organizational learning culture with enduring behavioral change can be time consuming if the implementation of training development programs isn’t thought out in advance. 

Why should organizations train frontline managers?

Organizations increasingly recognize the need to develop their own people. From an HR perspective, the job market is competitive. Organizations are struggling to find the right talent and enough of it. That really underlines the business case for organizations to cultivate their own talent.

Frontline managers benefit greatly from training and development opportunities such as mentorship, coaching, job rotations and policies that allow for work/life balance. Investing in people is sure to show a strong return on investment for an organization. 

For example, research shows that when organizations support employee development and offer advancement, it leads to improvement in employee performance and reduced turnover. In fact, research suggests that younger generations expect their employer to offer ongoing development, which makes training a key predictor of retention and engagement. 

A robust training and development program can also be used in an organization’s recruitment strategies — a key differentiator in a competitive job market.

How can organizations ensure their frontline managers are prepared for their jobs?

Organizations should identify employees with supervisory potential and work training into their onboarding program or provide it early in the employee’s tenure. 

Be proactive by identifying those with high potential who can move up into supervisor roles.

Take the time to develop them so that when they move into these roles, they have a solid foundation and the leadership skills necessary for effective frontline management.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College

Data is driving Industry 4.0. Is your company equipped to compete?

Smart manufacturing is an evolution that started in Germany and has enjoyed wide adoption in Europe, improving essentially all aspects of manufacturing. It’s enabled manufacturing companies of all sizes to be more productive, improve quality and become more cost effective. 

“The idea behind smart manufacturing is to be able to have more control over the manufacturing process,” says Ray Nejadfard, Dean and Executive Director of the Engineering/Manufacturing Technology Center of Excellence at Cuyahoga Community College®. “It enables manufacturers to operate predictively and avoid costly downtime while improving quality.” 

Smart Business spoke with Nejadfard about smart manufacturing, its effect on the industry and how well prepared Northeast Ohio companies are for Industry 4.0.

How widespread is the use of smart manufacturing in Northeast Ohio?

There is an effort under way to educate Northeast Ohio manufacturers on smart manufacturing — what it is, why it matters and how to outfit companies so they can move in that direction. Groups such as Team NEO are actively meeting with manufacturers to educate them on Industry 4.0.

In most cases, large companies have already adopted the technology and the workforce necessary to implement smart manufacturing, but the plan and the hope is to get more small and mid-sized companies involved because they’re the backbone of industry — some 90 percent of area manufacturing businesses would be classified as small or mid-sized. 

How can business leaders who have yet to implement smart manufacturing begin to put those processes in place at their companies?

There is a road map. It starts with a questionnaire that helps manufacturers evaluate their companies and offers steps they can take to improve. That’s because the biggest hurdle to implementation is that manufacturers don’t know where to start. The second hurdle is finding people in the workforce who are capable of operating in a smart manufacturing environment. 

What does smart manufacturing demand of the workforce?

Those who work in smart manufacturing must have a combination of mechanical, electrical and IT networking knowledge and skills. It’s important to understand the electrical and mechanical aspects of the cutting-edge machines so it’s clear how processes work, and an understanding of networking is needed to ensure the machines are producing the data needed to effectively adjust processes.

And that’s the other side: data analysis. Today’s most advanced equipment uses sensors to produce data that’s hugely important to the smart manufacturing process. But that data is useless unless people are capable of analyzing it and then effectively acting on it to better control manufacturing processes. 

What is the risk to businesses that don’t adopt smart manufacturing practices?

Manufacturers that don’t implement smart manufacturing will see the competition eat their lunch. Unfortunately, too many companies believe few can compete with them and they resist advancing their operations. But with smart manufacturing, smaller companies that have successfully implemented the technology and have the workforce to exploit it are coming into the market and having tremendous success.

Companies that don’t adapt are going to see themselves in a very difficult spot in the next 10 to 15 years because they’re not going to be as productive, as cost effective, as companies that embrace smart manufacturing.

Companies that, at even the most modest levels, have applied smart manufacturing have seen significant gains in productivity and quality controls — and that’s not even with smart manufacturing fully applied; just enough to improve the efficiency of some machines.

Smart manufacturing is fairly new in the U.S., but in Europe it’s been widely adopted with great success. Fortunately, the supports that exist in Northeast Ohio are helping companies adopt these new processes and remain globally competitive.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College

How agile project management can benefit any organization

Agile project management is a methodology born from the software industry as a fast and flexible method of development. Agile is characterized by a series of short, iterative and continuous improvements in a process or systems. It’s enjoyed adoption in an array of industries as  organizations can innovate, manage, design and build new products or services.

“This way of thinking about projects and work is inclusive, focusing on the input of individuals, teams and customers to get constant feedback as projects are developed,” says Samantha Kaplan, Director of Quality & Continuous Improvement – Client Solutions and Program Management at Corporate College, a division of Cuyahoga Community College. “That means quicker reactions to change and faster delivery to customers. It’s modernizing project management to focus on the right things at the right time. There is an increased emphasis on efficiency, waste elimination, and a focus on the end users.”

Smart Business spoke with Kaplan about agile project management — what it is and how it helps organizations improve product and service development.

How does agile project management work?

Agile’s emphasis is on collaborative teams, which work on a project or initiative. Directives aren’t pushed from the top down in agile. Rather, teams work to iterate, relying heavily on individual feedback. There’s also an emphasis on cross functionality and stakeholder involvement, especially customers, which requires a sensitivity to feedback and rapid change. 

This type of project management is common in the tech industry where it was born, but today it’s being used in education, construction, government, insurance, financial and professional services. 

How is agile project management deployed at an organization?

To deploy agile project management, an organization has to be ready for change. The methodology represents a significant change in how an organization works and thinks, how projects are delivered and how an organization does business. Whether or not an organization is ready for change can be measured through a readiness assessment. The readiness assessment can give an organization a sense of the time and effort agile implementation could take, processes that may need to be in place, the resources and skill sets needed and the metrics to determine progress.

Deployment is usually done first through a single agile team that will eventually develop agile standards and templates, and introduce the methodology to subsequent teams throughout the organization. Its success requires the right composition, enough training so the pilot team understands the new process and leadership sponsorship.

Leadership must ensure the agile way of thinking becomes part of the culture. It also needs to be there to break early teams through road blocks, which means being supportive and ensuring regular communication. 

What improvements should organizations expect after deploying agile?

With agile project management fully and successfully deployed, organizations can expect greater focus on customer needs and wants, which equates to a rise in customer satisfaction. Organizations post-agile tend to experience an increase in sales and revenue while also reducing waste. They’ll see an improvement in collaboration, organizational flexibility and adaptation to change, as well as more innovation. They can also expect improved morale, productivity and better quality products.

Team communication will improve, as does collaboration. Teams address defects sooner and have fewer project overruns. Risk might increase slightly with the faster pace, but the organization is better equipped to identify, deal with and mitigate those risks. The increased flexibility means teams can manage and change priorities more fluidly. 

Organizations of all types are beginning to understand what it takes to keep pace in today’s economy, and that’s leading to a broad adoption of agile project management. Community colleges can be a resource for agile project management training and implementation. Whether the organization is new to the methodology or would like to see deeper adoption, community colleges can help with the instruction or certifications needed for agile initiatives to succeed.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College

Consider an apprenticeship program to fill your talent pipeline

Apprenticeships are getting another look because of the substantial gap between the training and education America’s college graduates receive and the market demands for skilled labor. 

“There’s a resurgence in their use, largely because of support from governors, state legislators, and higher education leaders who see the success of apprenticeships in preparing students to join the workforce and contribute to the economy,” says Starr Sherman, manager of Cuyahoga Community College’s Manufacturing Technology Center of Excellence. 

President Barack Obama made apprenticeships a priority, directing millions of dollars to support the programs, and President Donald Trump signed an executive order to increase the federal funding that currently supports the Apprenticeship Ohio initiative grant.

Smart Business spoke with Sherman about apprenticeships and how they benefit employers and employees alike.

What do apprenticeships offer that other training programs might not?

Apprenticeships offer students an alternative pathway to college for those seeking to avoid expensive tuition and loans. Apprentices who complete their programs secure employment at high rates and regularly earn family-sustaining wages.

The programs also offer employers opportunities to curate their own talent pipeline and customize training to their specific needs so future employees know their equipment and processes. And the earn-while-you-learn component keeps students engaged throughout the process to earn a state registered journeyman certification for national recognition as an expert in their industry.

Additionally, apprenticeships are gaining traction outside of the manufacturing and construction industries. Today, apprenticeships are being used successfully in IT and health care, and are getting interest from other industries as well. 

What should companies understand about these programs before starting one?

Apprenticeships are a commitment among an employer, the apprentice and the authorized training provider — they’re relationships that usually carry on for four years. Further, apprenticeships require each employer to give their apprentice a broad exposure to the demands of the industry, offering a designated number of on-the-job training hours completing various tasks under the supervision of a certified journeyman to meet state requirements, all while meticulously tracking their professional progress. 

Employers should also understand that as apprentices progress in their training and skills, they should also receive incremental pay increases. Once they receive their journeyman certification, if they are not receiving industry-standard pay, the company may lose them to other eager employers offering higher wages. 

How can area colleges help?

Employers and colleges benefit from forming complementary relationships around apprenticeship training and upcoming industry trends. Through these arrangements, employers provide the on-the-job training, while colleges provide the related technical instruction (RTI) or education. State-approved colleges can both provide the required RTI and sponsor apprentices. Colleges approved by the state to sponsor apprentices also manage the administrative aspect of the program, including tracking and maintaining all of the paperwork so employers can focus on running their businesses. Additionally, colleges that participate in federally funded programs such as Apprenticeship Ohio receive Department of Labor grant funding that offers up to $2,500 to offset the cost of a student’s first year in the apprenticeship, saving employers the cost of the first year of training. 

When choosing a college to partner with on an apprenticeship program, look for an institution with a reputation for apprenticeships — an institution that has managed the paperwork and has had success with grant awards.

Apprenticeships offer a unique opportunity to invest in the next-generation workforce. It’s a chance to train potential employees on specific equipment and fill the talent pipeline to stay competitive.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College.

How small businesses can create successful growth opportunities

Growth is always a part of a company’s strategic plan. From its earliest stages, companies are working to win new business, create innovative products and services, and establish a presence in new markets. However, growth tends to stall once companies reach the maturity stage. 

“Growth plateaus in mature companies typically because they’re not as focused on innovating their products or services as they had been at the start,” says Patrice Blakemore, interim executive director of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. “Instead, their attention is more on the delivery of existing products and services — both of which are already proven and established in the markets they serve.”

Smart Business spoke with Blakemore about growth in later-stage companies — why it can stagnate and how businesses can jumpstart it again.

What are some of the more common reasons that growth in mature businesses stalls?

Companies at the maturation stage stall when the focus shifts from strategic initiatives, such as expansion and innovation, to technical initiatives, such as day-to-day operations. That happens a lot when business owners fail to delegate to employees aspects of the operation, e.g. order fulfillment and customer service. Business owners become tangled in the weeds, which prevents them from establishing a long-term strategy and vision, and setting organizational milestones. 

In business, what gets measured gets done. Goal setting and accountability are equally important to daily tasks. Business owners should ask themselves, ‘What are we measuring? Why? Who is responsible for hitting those goals?’ Incorporating an accountability process can help business owners measure where they are relative to their strategic direction and identify benchmarks for growth initiatives. 

How can small businesses create successful growth opportunities? 

Most often, when small business owners think about growth, they think about what they need — increased revenue, additional staff, better equipment — rather than their clients’ needs or pain-points. For growth to continue, business owners must focus on their customers. 

Focus groups are a good way to get in touch with client needs. Current and past customers can offer insight into what products and services work well, their current pain points and what the company could deliver that would address any gaps or unmet needs. 

When business owners feel stuck, who can they work with to generate ideas that will move their businesses forward?

Cleveland has many resources for businesses in need of advice. There are business coaches, outsource CFOs and consultants with experience in myriad industries who are available to help companies align their metrics with their goals. Advisers can analyze a business from a numbers standpoint to determine what is working strategically and what is not. 

In addition, there are other programs that focus exclusively on growth and offer tools to vet ideas, identify opportunities and create a plan for growth. 

As they mature, the challenges faced by small businesses are common — hiring, retention, finances. Companies that feel they’ve stagnated can find support from community resources and people who are invested in their success. 

Community colleges are wonderful resources for small businesses. They offer noncredit courses — in-person and online — designed to support small business owners. Courses include QuickBooks, leadership and organizational development, and information technology that will benefit their management team.

Companies should always have an eye toward innovation and growth opportunities and a plan to stay relevant to existing customers. It’s not uncommon for progress to slow down. But recognizing it and taking steps to address it are critical to a company’s continued success.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College.

How Cleveland could leverage blockchain technology for success

Many stakeholders in the Greater Cleveland area see blockchain, an emerging technology that serves as a secure distributed ledger of online transactions, as a means to create a unique identity for the area that will attract and retain businesses. It also could be a means to economic development that improves lives in all of the city’s communities.

“Emphasizing blockchain doesn’t mean moving away from other important sectors, such as manufacturing and health care,” says Alex Johnson, Ph.D., president of Cuyahoga Community College. “But by putting resources behind blockchain now, Cleveland could establish itself as a hub for businesses and organizations developing this new technology for a worldwide audience.” 

Smart Business spoke with Johnson about Cleveland’s blockchain movement, where it’s headed and how it could become an economic engine for the city. 

What is blockchain? How is the technology being applied today? 

Blockchain is a series of digital records linked using cryptography. It enables transactions to be carried out between individuals or organizations without an intermediary. The design of blockchain is such that records can be accurately identified and verified, but are nearly impossible to alter by unauthorized parties — each transaction becomes a permanent part of the blockchain. This permits blockchain to provide accurate identification of a person while offering nearly impenetrable data security. These factors make it ideal for application in education; manufacturing, especially when it comes to supply chain management; government; the medical field; and any area in which secure records are kept.

How are area institutions of higher education involved?

The success of Cleveland’s blockchain movement depends on collaborative engagement. Area institutions of higher education can contribute through the development of the talent needed to work in this field. Cuyahoga Community College has joined forces with Cleveland State University and Case Western Reserve University to research and develop the new technology while training a workforce to bring it to life. This floor-to-ceiling approach ensures that new applications for blockchain are developed as people are trained to work with the technology and, at a higher level, understand its potential impact for improving existing business operations. 

Tri-C will focus primarily on workforce development. Investments in technology-related education, including labs and equipment, have aligned Tri-C as a key training provider for blockchain. Creating a pipeline of talent that ranges from technologists to technicians ensures that businesses that are considering locating in Cleveland will have the diverse and capable workforce they need.  

What does success look like for Cleveland’s blockchain movement?

Many local leaders see a potential path to Northeast Ohio’s economic renewal in blockchain, but only if the region gets out in front of the large-scale adoption of the technology. According to current projections, blockchain could be utilized in up to 60 percent of American companies by 2020. However, it will require a strong collective focus to be seen as a city that is synonymous with blockchain. 

What help is needed to achieve the movement’s goal?

It’s going to take a more formal approach that involves individuals throughout the community. It requires a redirection of resources and possibly a little help from outside agencies, such as the state government and philanthropic organizations throughout the nation. By working together to attract and retain the businesses and talent needed to grow this industry, blockchain could become the catalyst to continued economic recovery and advancement for the city and the region, and a catalyst for Cleveland’s growing, positive reputation. 

Further, a focus on talent development could be a driver of economic equality. The workforce for blockchain, and IT and other industry sectors, has to come from all of Cleveland’s communities. That means making an effort to get more individuals from throughout Cleveland prepared to take on the jobs that can elevate Cleveland to everyone’s benefit.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College.

The role of community health workers in the continuum of care

Community health workers are on the frontlines of public health. These trusted individuals know their communities, which enable them to connect people to the various health and social services available to them.

“They know the community and they know the barriers its members face to access care and services,” says Marquita L. Rockamore, director of health industry solutions at Corporate College, a division of Cuyahoga Community College.

She says financial and racial inequities affect how people are served, their access to care and the quality of care delivered. Community health workers address those inequalities by helping members of their communities navigate service providers to find the care they need.

Smart Business spoke with Rockamore about community health workers and their role in the continuum of care.

Who typically employs community health workers and what services do they provide?
Community workers serve as a vital lifeline to members of the community who need care, but may not have the ability to access it. They connect the dots between insurance, health care providers and pharmacies to make sure all medical needs are being met.

Nonprofit community agencies and municipalities employ community health workers, as do county departments of health, clinics and managed care organizations. Hospitals have patient navigators who have unique training, but offer many of the same services as other community health workers.

Increasingly, community health workers are being employed to help close the digital divide. That work focuses on teaching members of the community, seniors especially, how to use computers and software to create or access electronic health records. This can help them better understand the details of their health conditions and take action to make improvements.

How are differences in the titles and educational backgrounds of community health workers affecting the industry?
The industry is suffering from an identity crisis. Community health workers are known by a host of names — outreach workers, liaisons and more. But it’s bigger than a name. There are also differences in how community health workers operate, which makes it difficult to capture performance data or streamline education and training.

Another issue is the level of certification or academic degree employers and insurance companies would like community health workers to have. For example, in some cases, a community health worker can be employed with a high school diploma and a certification, but an insurance company might require a bachelor’s degree to reimburse an employer for those services, so there’s a disconnect.

As communities continue to address opioid addiction, the digital divide and inequities of care, there is a greater need for homogeneity in the industry to better provide and pay for the community health care workers who can connect people to much needed services.

What challenges are employers facing when it comes to connecting with or retaining community health workers?
There are barriers that are affecting if and how community health workers are employed. Employers sometimes aren’t sure how to get reimbursed for the services of community health workers. That can be as simple as not understanding which code to use to get reimbursed for those services.

Employers want to hire certified community health workers, but equally as important is hiring individuals who can communicate with the many different types of people who are served, as well as those who deliver care or reimburse for services rendered. Employers prefer to deploy someone who mirrors the demographics of a particular community, knows the neighborhoods and can relate and communicate to those being helped. It can be a challenge to find those who fit that description.

There are many people hurting for resources. Some are trying to juggle caring for a family member while going to school or working full time. There are many people who need services and don’t know where to get them, often despite living in a resource-rich community. Community health workers can make those connections for those who don’t know where to turn.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College.