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While there’s reason to celebrate the fact that unemployment recently reached a 49-year low this year, boastful remarks about the state of the economy may be premature.
In industries across the board, job openings outnumber qualified applicants — and it’s only going to get worse. According to research released earlier this year by the Korn Ferry Institute, the existing talent shortage will reach its worst levels in 2030, when an expected 85.2 million job openings will go unfilled worldwide. The technology, media, and telecommunications industry is one field that’s predicted to be hit hardest; about a decade from now, it could be struggling to fill 4.3 million job openings with an unrealized output of $449.7 billion.
Considering the skills gap, it’s time to seriously rethink how America’s workforce is being trained. After all, the cost of education continues to rise, and there aren’t enough trained applicants to fill jobs in the manufacturing, technology, and finance industries. Small businesses, of course, will feel the pain as much as anyone.
For companies to survive the skills shortage and continue to grow, they’ll need to take a new approach to finding and retaining employees who have the skills they need to remain competitive. By setting up a talent pipeline that relies less on outdated career fairs and more on ongoing educational opportunities, they’ll be able to find key hires. And by investing in these individuals, they’ll be able to retain them.
1. Look for nontraditional applicants via training programs.
Numerous nonprofits and organizations have sprung up to help fill the skills gaps in multiple industries. These programs aim to train people to enter a new field, which means employers have a bigger pool of candidates with the capabilities they seek. For instance, LaunchCode, which just turned five and has garnered praise from former President Barack Obama, is educating the next generation of coders and has seen 80 percent of its participants begin a tech career without a computer science degree. Reach out to these types of training programs — after all, they thrive by connecting their graduating classes with eager employers.
2. Network with educators regularly.
A number of different professional associations can help you inform educators at the high school and college levels on what skills are lacking in the workforce so they can use that knowledge to inform their curriculum decisions. For instance, organizations such as The National Network of Business and Industry Associations exist for the purpose of connecting industry groups and educational institutions to ensure that the latter are teaching skills that are in high demand, such as science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills. When you connect with individual educators in your community, you can share your perspective on what students entering tomorrow’s workforce need to know.
3. Fill knowledge gaps by upskilling your team.
Give current employees regular opportunities to improve their existing skills and learn new ones. This will be increasingly important as tech upends more and more job descriptions. This upskilling can be accomplished by holding in-house trainings, enabling employees to attend conferences, or even bringing in a consultant to lead a series of workshops. It can be hard for business leaders to swallow the fact that these training sessions take time out of the normal workday, especially if business is booming and there aren’t enough hours in the day. Still, your employees are an investment in your company’s future, and they will appreciate that you’re investing in them. Help your team members develop the skills they need to keep your business competitive and forward-thinking.
4. Advocate for productive policy changes.
Instead of sitting by and watching the skills gap turn into an unbridgeable chasm, advocate for policies that will lessen its effects. For instance, IBM is promoting legislation that aims to improve technical training’s ability to prep people for “new collar” jobs, or positions in fields like cybersecurity and digital design. IBM is also pushing for policies that renew and expand financial aid for short-term learning opportunities such as coding camps. The company’s proposed new model for education, called P-TECH, prioritizes academics and hands-on training related to STEM skills. When students graduate in six or fewer years, they earn a high school diploma and two-year associate degree.
5. Incentivize employees to continue their education.
When employees further their education, everyone benefits. Your company gets a workforce that’s more versatile and productive, and generous continuing education policies may help you attract top talent and reduce turnover. To incentivize employees to continue their education, offer to cover some of the cost of their educational efforts, whether they’re refreshing an expired certification or earning an additional degree. Companies such as Disney, AT&T, and Chipotle all help out with education expenses, and not just out of high-minded altruism — the federal tax code allows companies to deduct tuition reimbursements of up to $5,250 per employee each year.
The skills gap will continue to affect companies everywhere, as more organizations are forced to compete for fewer applicants. Tech has already been hit particularly hard, and the shortage isn’t going to go away anytime soon. In order to remain competitive, businesses must start applying some of the above solutions to set themselves — and their teams — up for success.
December 20, 2018 at 01:09PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs