You’ve probably heard of the so-called “skills gap” and the fact that many employers in the U.S. have difficulty finding the right workers.
Even as unemployment figures have crept downward, some industries are still experiencing a shortage of qualified employees. But in what fields, exactly, is the skills gap most prevalent?
Aside from manufacturing, an industry widely recognized as having problems with hiring, there aren’t hard figures on which types of businesses are most affected.
We’ll look at lists from a few publications, examine some of the themes that emerge from research on the topic and discuss how you can take advantage of the skills gap.
Skills Gap by Industry
To begin, let’s look at which industries a few publications say are in need of quality workers.
From ManpowerGroup’s 2014 survey on the industries that are having the hardest time filling jobs:
- Skilled trade workers
- Restaurant and hotel staff
- Sales representatives
- Accounting and finance staff
- IT staff
- Computer and mathematical
- Architecture and engineering
- Health care practitioners and technical
- Installation, maintenance and repair
- Business and financial operations
- Personal care and services
- Sales and related
From Harvard Business Review:
- Computer technology
- High-skill manufacturing
So, what do these lists tell us?
There’s still a lack of people going to college to get a degree in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) professions. But there’s also a dearth of skilled workers in service, sales and general business fields.
While there are many factors that contribute to the skills gap, the major culprit is a lack of appropriate training (or opportunities for such education) in job-seekers.
Citing figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a CareerBuilder study says nearly 40 percent of people under 25 are unemployed or underemployed, while about 8 percent of those in the same age bracket with a four-year degree can’t find a job at all.
How to Fix the Skills Gap
The basic conclusion regarding the skills gap discussion would seem to be that people aren’t getting degrees in in-demand fields.
The CareerBuilder survey of 1,025 employers, 205 academics and 1,524 job-seekers found that educational gaps and lack of on-the-job training were the two primary culprits of the skills gap.
So, what’s the solution?
According to a post on Forbes, it could lie with how schools prepare graduates.
“Part of the problem may be that traditional educational institutions weren’t designed for a fast-changing market where skills depreciate quickly,” wrote Dennis Yang, president and COO of Udemy.“Universities weren’t designed to change curricula and introduce new classes at the pace required by changing industry requirements.”
Continuing education is also needed, according to Yang, as well as on-the-job training for new hires.
Meanwhile, for some businesses, the issue lies with a lack of “soft skills,” which include critical thinking, teamwork, creativity and communication, according to a report from CNBC, citing a survey of 500 executives by ADDECO. Lack of technical and leadership skills were the next two most often mentioned attributes job-seekers are lacking.
Based on this information, there seems to be two clear answers to bridging the skills gap:
- More focused (and practical) degree programs
- Improved apprenticeships and corporate training programs
Of course, there are hurdles associated with these efforts. Traditional universities aren’t positioned to quickly respond to demand in the marketplace, and some companies are wary of the costs of implementing training platforms.
And in the ever-changing world of technology, even professionals in the job they want must continue to develop their skill set.
You’ll also hear talk of the “middle skills gap,” which refers to jobs that require more than a high school education but less than a four-year degree.
These various factors contributing to the skills gap illustrate that it will take a multi-pronged approach to making sure employers have enough qualified workers:
- Improvement of soft skills among job-seekers
- Degree programs aligning with employer needs
- Better on-the-job training
- Consistent updates of tech skills by workers
Skills Gap: Where Do I Fit In?
What does all this mean for people in the workforce?
Well, there are openings. You just need to know where to look. (And have the right education and training for the job.)
The skills gap provides opportunities in many sectors, but many of them require a degree or some form of education beyond high school. If you’re looking to take advantage, think about your interests, existing skills and where you see your career heading.
You’ll have to do some thinking and self-reflection. You might be fine with a certificate of some sort. Maybe you want to secure an advanced degree to get ahead in your company. Or would an apprenticeship make more sense for your goals?
Remember these things when you do research on the skills gap and how it factors into your future.
There are jobs to be had. You just need the right plan.