NEXTWORK: A Key to Success for Businesses, Schools, and Students
Among my responsibilities as the Director for Strategic Innovation for the Wickliffe Schools is to lead the district’s career and workforce development program called “The Wickliffe Student Ten Year Plan.” The plan involves students participating in a number of career and workforce readiness activities. Beginning in grade 4 students engage in career fairs, site visits to various businesses, hear from speakers about their life and career path, participate in job shadowing experiences, and engage in internship opportunities.
Two years ago, while “shouting out” thanks to one of our partners, things became complicated. While the company was happy to help, my use of social media created a dilemma for them. They were receiving calls from other districts wanting the same opportunity. As a working business, they could not manage the volume of calls and requests.
Creating a solution to the problem
To help create a solution to their problem, a partnership was created among local manufacturing businesses, and K-12 educators to develop a systematic centralized process for managing all of these activities across the region. With funding support from the Cleveland Foundation and the State of Ohio, an organization and software was created to manage these challenges- NEXTWORK was born.
Manufacturing is 40% of Lake County’s workforce, supporting over 33,000 jobs and it is estimated that 25% (or over 8,000 jobs) of the workforce will be retiring in the next 10 years. In Geauga County, 193 manufacturers are facing a similar workforce shortfall as in Lake County. NEXTWORK has been created to address the workforce needs and serve as a catalyst to economic prosperity in Lake and Geauga Counties and the entire region.
At its core NEXTWORK is a robust software portal developed locally by Knowtion Inc. that serves to manage the flow of information for businesses and schools to schedule events, book speakers, post shadowing, internship and career opportunities, share information with members and subscribers, and otherwise engage a potential workforce.
The Future of NEXTWORK
While manufacturing is the first career cluster NEXTWORK is addressing, there are plans to expand its reach into healthcare, information technology, the building/construction trades, and the financial sector.
According to Team NEO’s update of a 2014 report commissioned by the Cleveland Foundation to the national consulting firm FutureWorks, analyzing the job demand and supply picture for the 18 counties of Northeast Ohio“Aligning Opportunities in Northeast Ohio,” there is a gap between the credentials needed for the modern workforce (65% of which need more than a high school diploma by 2020) and the actual educational attainment of available workers. NEXTWORK’s goal is to contribute to reducing the gap by providing information and experiences to young people and potential employees that will assist them in making strategic decisions about pursuing an educational experience that prepares them well of their future.
NEXTWORK believes that by creating partnerships among education, business, and government, we will create a knowledgeable, agile, workforce that will deliver economic prosperity to northeast Ohio. NEXTWORK will be available to the public in late October 2017.
Director of Strategic Innovation, Wickliffe City School District
Superintendent of Wickliffe City School District