Businesses and job seekers constantly bemoan the “skills gap” in America. Companies claim they can’t find qualified workers for even the most basic of positions, while the unemployed rant about their inability to gain experience if they never get an opportunity to work. The blame for the skills gap falls on the shoulders of both the American higher education system and businesses themselves, but there are ways to eliminate the problem within your company.
A failure of expectations
The American higher educational system is facing a crisis of identity. Most colleges and universities want to hold true to their original mission to provide a well-rounded education to students; however, there is increasing pressure from communities to promote a more practical curriculum that better prepares graduates for the workforce. At the same time, students facing a mountain of loan debt upon graduation seek concise degree programs they can complete quickly. The result is engineers who’ve taken British literature courses, graphic designers versed in physics and economists who know the history of French art. Unfortunately, many of these graduates have merely a semester or two of hands-on experience in their chosen fields when they apply for a job, because that’s all their degree plans allowed.
The situation is not any better for American companies. Turnover rates, once low due to the recession, are rising once again. For this reason, businesses hesitate to invest in job training programs for workers they feel will not be around for very long. This necessitates a search for highly-qualified, well-trained candidates willing to work for entry-level wages. Job seekers look at the open positions within these companies and decide not to apply because they don’t meet the posted minimum standards. With few job seekers fulfilling these requirements, searches take longer and cost businesses a small fortune.
A two-part solution
Job seekers must take it upon themselves to build the skills they need, even if that requires them to take an extra semester of classes, seek expert online training from resources like Lynda or Khan Academy or work internships during breaks.
For companies, the solution is an expansion of corporate training programs. A recent survey found that 50 percent of job seekers blame a lack of on-the-job training for their inability to find employment, and they are hungry to get into positions where they can learn.
Investing in eLearning and training management software decreases the skills gap within your company in three ways.
- Teaches job-specific skills: Every company uses a slightly different set of software or reporting tools, and when you limit your search to candidates who have experience in your particular configuration, you severely curtail potential applicants. Through expert online training, you guide your new hires through the precise setup that you use, ensuring they know your system and the way you want things done from the moment they start work.
- Lays out a career path: One of the biggest problems for graduates is that when they leave college, they don’t really understand what a career path is or how to achieve their goals. This can cause them to drift from job to job, never developing intermediate or advanced skills in their work. Before they know it, they find themselves 10 years out of school, stuck in the same kind of position they had in their twenties. When you incorporate a career path into your job training programs, you lay out a clear series of steps your staff can follow to advance. The resulting motivation and encouragement causes employees to stay loyal to your company and creates an internal funnel of talent that fills openings in management and higher-level positions.
- Assess internal talent: About one-third of all college graduates never work in the field they studied to enter, and many have talents in business aspects that employees never considered. If your job training programs contain talent assessment metrics, you might just discover your next great sales manager in your accounting office or a superstar designer in customer service. By finding the talent internally, you save money on salaries, training and productivity-boosting initiatives.
It’s time to bridge the skills gap by looking at college degrees as proof that someone is a budding expert in a given field. It’s an indication that the applicant has the basic framework for the job at hand, as well as a signal that the individual demonstrated an ability to learn, absorb new information and persist through to completion. By changing your outlook, you open your company to more—and better—applicants whom you can nurture, train and mold into the employees you want on your team.