Columbus State’s IT Summits Offers Optimistic Outlook

By combining Central Ohio’s talent base, new talent and the incumbent workforce, the area can produce enough IT workers to fill jobs, according to Ben Blanquera, vice president of growth hacking for Pillar Technologies.

Blanquera was one of three panelists addressing the issue at “Gearing up in an Age of Accelerated Change: Help Us Build Columbus’ IT Talent Pipeline,” hosted by Columbus State Community College in March.

The event was presented through The Central Ohio Compact, a regional strategy for college completion and career success, led by Columbus State. The college’s president, David Harrison said the goal behind the Central Ohio Compact is to advance economic development through education.

Blanquera was joined by Jay Donovan, associate director of strategy for Resource/Ammirati and a writer for TechCrunch, and Annlea Rumfola, vice president of information technology for pharmaceutical distribution and the pharma modernization program for Cardinal Health.

The discussion centered on current workforce and preparing the workforce of the future in IT roles, including how to engage Millennials. Moderator Allen Kraus, Columbus State vice president of marketing and communications, noted that 53 percent of Millennials are willing to take a pay cut in order to work remotely.

Rumfola said she has found that the remote workers are not as engaged or motivated as those who are in the office on a routine basis.

Kraus also asked about the notion of adding an “A” for the arts to STEM to become STEAM. “I’m kind of passionate about this,” Donovan said. He noted that when Steve Jobs dropped out of Stanford University, he started taking a Chinese calligraphy class, which he applied years later to Apple’s variable-spaced fonts. “We can make holistic technologists,” Donovan said. Rumfola added that the user experience relies more on art than science.

The panelists were asked where they see the greatest potential for growth in IT. “One of the biggest potentials we have in town is the collision between healthcare and analytics,” Blanquera said. “That’s where the big play is.”

Rumfola talked about the investment being made in security strategies and ensuring the skillset to address it. “If I’m in the education space, that would be the area I’d focus on,” Rumfola said. She also mentioned the importance of entrepreneurship and how it can be encouraged within large companies. Cardinal Health, for example, introduced Fuse, which offers a start-up environment where innovative ideas may be tested.

Keynote speaker Kimberly Clavin, manager of STEM initiatives for Dublin City Schools, highlighted opportunities for workforce to participate in K-12 preparedness. She has implemented a K to Career program, which incorporates project-based learning, dual enrollment, internships, teacher externships and mentoring. In addition to taking students on tours of businesses, she says teachers are now setting up classrooms to look like the workplace as early as in first-grade.

“We’re bringing real-life relevancy and professional practice into the classroom,” Clavin said.

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