Take an Educated Guess on What it Will Take to Close the Skills Gap

Julie Shenkman
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In 2017, it's becoming increasingly common to hear of job vacancies that sit unfilled for years. This is just one example of how the skills gap is reducing business productivity and contributing to less than ideal unemployment rates. Closing this skills gap requires a shift in how education is viewed by the American public, policy makers and business owners. It's essential to look towards these new thought patterns to increase the number of qualified workers.

Continual Education Becoming the Norm

As technology changes rapidly and new ways of doing business develop at lightning speed, a single four-year degree is not enough to sustain most workers for the long term. The emerging workforce needs to take an extended view of education, seeing college as a broad, foundational beginning to be followed up by regular continuing education activities. Unfortunately, formal education courses are often priced too high for many, especially the unemployed. Closing the skills gap requires the development and growth of free or reasonably priced training opportunities for workers to increase their employability.

New Corporate Responsibility Toward Education

One of the best ways to ensure a qualified workforce is to provide on-the-job training that is specific to your needs. Options include internships, workshops, online courses and education credits towards traditional schooling. Larger corporations may want to consider developing their own in-house training programs to help workers succeed. The best programs are incremental and include competency tests to assure the needed skills have been acquired. Start looking at entry-level new hires for their future potential within your organization. Someone lacking skills might become an excellent employee with just a little bit of training.

Larger Acceptance of Alternative Educational Paths

Individuals learn through many different channels other than formal schooling. To find qualified workers to fill long-term vacancies, companies need to be open to hiring those who have gained competency through informal courses, self-study and general life experience. Finding these qualified workers requires changes in the general hiring process. Relying heavily on resumes and applicant-tracking software leads to alternatively qualified workers being screened out. Hiring managers need widen their search to better find alternatively qualified applicants to bridge the skills gap.

On the other hand, competency testing is a great way to allow prospective workers to show their skills. Consider incorporating more skills-based assessments into your hiring process to find the workers you need to keep your productivity at top levels. Research shows a disconnect between human resource departments and job seekers in general, which amplifies the effects of the skills gap. Evaluate your current processes to determine if improvements might help you find more qualified professionals to fill your job openings.

A shift in how employers and the workforce view education will help narrow the skills gap to the benefit of all. Human resource departments need to offer more opportunities to workers with nontraditional education as well as comprehensive and ongoing on-the-job training to help their workforce adapt and prepare for the future.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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  • Barry Howard
    Barry Howard

    One cannot achieve success by threatening employers to meet daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly metrics, or be fired. I hear many HR professionals in my area lament that company executives are still living at the peak of the recession: "I'll fire 99 individuals today, and there will be 150 lining up for their jobs tomorrow". With a 3.3% unemployment rate in my county, that simply is not the case. While it is true that "reactive" training by request can burn money and time, it is also true that skills training can be very fruitful. First-line supervisory training, management training, and leadership training show positive gains as well I agree with you that OTJ and more formal training is needed. No matter how hard you whip your recruiters, talent is most likely to grow within the organization through training, OJT, job-shadowing, and mentoring.

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