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Innovate+Educate CEO Opens the Door for Employers to Close the Skills Gap

Welcome to Empowering Employment, a new series celebrating the companies that are doing their part to bridge the skills gap and help the economy. This month, CareerBuilder is proud to recognize Innovate+Educate, host of next month’s Close It Summit, a first-of-its-kind conference designed to empower employers with new ways to hire and develop their workforce, create new opportunities and close the skills gap.

Innovate-EducateSeveral months ago, Jamai Blivin noticed that, of the many conferences she was attending – either as a guest or speakers – geared toward advancing STEM education and closing the skills gap, one key demographic seemed to be missing: Employers. Blivin, the founder and CEO of Innovate+Educate, a Santa Fe, N.M.-based non-profit focused on advancing changes in education and the workforce, found it baffling that the group with the greatest potential to make an impact on the skills gap was not part of the conversation.

A Call to Action for Employers
“We really wanted to get employers involved and start taking an ownership and a responsibility in solving the skills gap,” says Blivin of the idea behind what is now the Close It Summit. A collaboration between Innovate+Educate and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Close It Summit is the first event of its kind, focused specifically on jobs, employment strategies and workforce needs. The inaugural Summit takes place next month in Washington, D.C., and will bring together hiring professionals from across the nation to discuss the key issues shaping workforce policy, explore new ways to build workforce skills, and form partnerships that will enable employers to take a more active role in closing the skills gap.

Unlike other summits – such as the Clinton Global Initiative and the STEM Summit – that are focused on education policy, the Close It Summit places emphasis on workforce issues. It’s an effort to empower employers to take ownership of the problems going on in the workforce and drive change themselves.

“Many employers don’t realize the impact the skills gap is having on their business,” says Summit speaker Jamie Womack, vice president of corporate marketing and branding at CareerBuilder. “Until recently, there was very little data to prove even the existence of the skills gap. But now we have the data to show that, not only is there a skills gap, but here’s where the impact of that gap is the largest, and here’s how organizations can make an impact.”

When asked about goals around the conference, Blivin says, “We really don’t have any set outcome for this. We really want it to organically become what it needs to become, and it is definitely building momentum already.”

“Building momentum” might be a bit of an understatement, considering the impressive list of sponsors and the lineup of speakers that includes representatives from SHRM, Manpower, Lockheed Martin, Siemens Corporation, GE, Hewlett Foundation and Intel. There will even be a planned reception at Capitol Hill, where members of the White House, the Department of Labor and the Department of Education will be in attendance and available for further networking opportunities and idea exchange.

Awarding Innovation, Raising Awareness
But perhaps the most anticipated event of the summit is the announcement of the HIRE Award winners. Created in conjunction with U.S. News & World Report, the HIRE Awards will recognize employers who “have challenged the status quo when it comes to hiring and workforce development practices.”

In addition to awarding the companies that deserve recognition for their efforts, Blivin is hopeful both the HIRE Awards and the Summit will raise awareness around the need for employers to recognize changes in the workforce and approach hiring differently. After all, she points out, “If employers don’t look at new ways to hire, nothing is going to impact the skills gap.”

Want to be considered for the HIRE Awards? Visit www.closeit.org/hireawards before October 11, 2013 to submit an application.

Interested in attending the Close IT Summit? Register by November 5, 2013 at www.closeit.org

Mary Lorenz

About Mary Lorenz

Mary is a copywriter for CareerBuilder, specializing in B2B marketing and corporate recruiting best practices and social media. In addition to creating copy for corporate advertising and marketing campaigns, she researches and writes about employee attraction, engagement and retention. Whenever possible, she makes references to pop culture. Sometimes, those references are even relevant. A New Orleans native, Mary now lives in Chicago, right down the street from the best sushi place in the city. It's awesome.
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