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Closing the Skills Gap > Economy > Sourcing > Talent Acquisition

Is the Skills Gap Just a Scapegoat for Employers?

BlameEmployersIs it high time for employers to stop being polite and start being real blaming a skills gap for their hiring struggles? For several months now, companies have been complaining about how they can’t find the right candidates to fill their open positions, blaming a labor market shortage of qualified applicants and skilled talent. Recently, however, some economists have started to argue that employers only have themselves to blame for their problems.

In a recent New York Times article, NPR’s Adam Davidson says what employers are calling a skills gap is really a wage gap. Simply put: the skilled workers employers want are out there; however, employers aren’t offering compensation that is compelling enough to drive workers to apply. As a result, candidates are passing them over for opportunities in industries that pay better. And can you blame them? As Forbes’ Maureen Henderson points out, a registered nurse may have plenty of career opportunities, but he or she could make more money working in retail than changing bedpans.

Pointing to a recent finding that 10 percent increase in compensation leads to a 7 percent increase in applicants, University of Chicago economist Ioana Marinescu suggests that employers need to reconsider their compensation offering and make an effort to understand what constitutes a truly competitive compensation.

If these economists are right – and employers bridge this “skills gap” by offering more money – then why aren’t more employers doing it?

Granted, increasing your compensation offering by 10 percent is nothing to sneeze at; however, when considering how much businesses stand to lose when positions go unfilled or when they hire the wrong people, increasing compensation ultimately might be the more economical choice. (Especially when you consider that it could also be the best way to boost retention.)

What’s your take on this debate? Do you believe companies could meet their hiring needs by offering more competitive compensation? (And could part of the problem be that employers do not know what is considered “competitive”?)

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.

I've worked in and around corporations since the 1990's and I think this is very likely. Corporate managers are very good at rationalizing their greed and elitism. 

I worked as a temp, admin, and in other support positions. A good example is one I saw in the 1990's - A rich investment bank who paid its receptionist 18k while its executives got millions. Another such company offered me 5k less than I made as a temp - but with good benefits. Good benefits was and is a way to take financial advantage of single mothers, who need the benefits for their children.

Another example I saw more than once was when management made decisions that would obviously cause the company to lose customers but would not acknowledge what they were doing - then when the company had gone down, they laid off workers. I suppose they were trying to make the company easier to sell or something.

I was never ok with any of this and eventually worked my way up to a decent job with a fair wage. When I stood up to insulting offers or continued to look for a job with fair pay, management shook its head at me and said I had a bad attitude.

Unfortunately the American way is to take advantage of the non-elite. Not all of it is racial, maybe none of it is. I'm white and I've been treated just as badly by the elites as non-whites.

Part of the problem is that workers accept being treated this way. The educational and social system pressures us to accept being treated like this, but as individuals we can choose not to accept it and keep trying until we find a good way to make a living. Once we rise to a certain level, the same elites that treated us like trash will respect us as "go-getters", "entrepreneurs", "experts", etc. and be willing to work with us instead of taking advantage of us. The thing to remember about elites is, the only thing they respect is power. They have no inherent respect, appreciation or compassion for people as people.

They may be trying to make the excuse that they don't know what the fair market value of the position is, but that won't fly. Even before the internet, research and studies were available. Now they should be able to find that information easily online. 

Another common excuse is that their profits are down and they "can't" pay a fair wage. And the same executive who is saying this has money to support his homemaker wife and four children, with whom he lives in a rich suburb and takes on four vacations each year. No, there's no way he could skip a raise or take a salary cut, could he? Management uses the "can't pay" excuse whenever the economy is not booming.

If all the skilled workers end up accepting lower wages, the market value of the positions will go down. The elites may be trying to make this happen. Of course, they shouldn't be allowed to! Workers should hold out for a fair wage and if they do have to accept a lower-wage job, keep looking for a better one.  That worked for me.  :-)


The other problem is employers are trying to find candidates who can do a job sytaight away with no training when in fact in my moms day in manufacturing in the 50s she left school and went straight into work with no qualifications experience or much of an interview needed. She was trained on the job and the employers werent bothered. Each worker did the work of one worker took pride and had good quality. Now they are so fussy and jobs are combined so people have to have extra skills. I saw this in a restaurant when the waitors/waitresses were doing getting orders, cleaning, getting plates, drinks it was chaos!


Yes, I think skills is a scapegoat for Employers because there are many qualified people out there for certain jobs but I think it has to do with your race sometimes for some of these job. Qualification is not the problem and then their are some people have the education but not the skills so it is really a scapegoat for employer and easy way to say I don't need you and get somebody else for the job.


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