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Closing the Skills Gap > Insights & Trends > Talent Acquisition > Talent Management

4 Things You Must Do to Jump the Skills Gap

jump-the-skills-gap-illustration.jpgCompanies are facing a growing problem:They can’t make the right hires. Although they’re adding jobs in response to more positive economic conditions, they cannot find skilled workers to fill those jobs. According to our survey, an incredible 52 percent of employers claim they have difficulties finding qualified candidates for their open jobs.

This may come as a surprise, considering 44 percent of recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the number of graduates earning minimum wage or less from their jobs has risen 71 percent in the past decade. A head-scratcher indeed, as you would think this situation would create a huge pool of young, educated talent from which companies could pull.

This is the third post in a multi-part series on The Hiring Site focused on the effects of the skills gap and what you can do to help bridge the divide. To see the entire study, view additional resources or download our comprehensive report, The Shocking Truth About the Skills Gap, visit www.careerbuilder.com/skillsgapstudy.

Below are some common issues many companies are facing in light of the skills gap — how many do you identify with? Read up for 4 ways to make the jump to beat the skills gap and find great talent for your company:

1. Set Realistic Requirements.

The Problem: Employers have trouble finding candidates who possess the skills for their jobs. In fact, 61 percent claim to have hired a person who does not fully meet the stated requirements for a job.

How to Make the Jump: The first thing you need to do is take a good, hard look at the job requirements you have listed. Be honest with yourself regarding how realistic your requirements are and how you might be unintentionally narrowing your options.

For instance, if your open job requires a four-year degree, a minimum of five years direct experience, and mastery in several other areas, you are limiting yourself to a small pool of candidates. Could a candidate with a two-year degree and 10 years of experience fit your needs? Or perhaps someone with a four-year degree and less experience? These questions will help you create flexibility as you search.

You should also consider separating the core skills necessary for the job from those you could categorize as “icing on the cake.” You’ll likely find your options widen considerably when you set realistic expectations for job seekers regarding your required skills.

Finally, don’t be afraid to look outside your industry. Seventy-two percent of job seekers are willing to take jobs in a different field from the one in which they are currently looking, so cast a wider net to find versatile job seekers.

2. Offer a Competitive Wage.

The Problem: Thirty-seven percent of employersconsider differing wage expectations one of the primary causes of the skills gap.

How to Make the Jump: Do some research regarding the industry standard wage for a particular job. Many companies have adjusted starting wages down since the beginning of the Great Recession. As the economic climate has grown more positive, however, so have job seeker expectations regarding wages: 30 percent of job seekers are looking for new jobs as a result of dissatisfaction with their current wage. This is good news for your company! Take advantage of this large group of skilled professionals by offering competitive wages and better benefits.

You may balk at this idea, but consider some success stories. Affordable retailers Costco, QuikTrip, and Trader Joe’s have recently proven that paying employees more does not cut into profits. Quite the opposite: These retail chains have seen this practice translate directly into increased productivity and customer satisfaction.

3. Offer Training.

The Problem: Sixty percent of job seekers expect to acquire job specific skills on the job, but employers are reluctant to offer training.

How to Make the Jump: You should let go of the idea that employees are like instant noodles. Noodles only need hot water and 30 seconds to become a delicious snack. Employees need a lot more than that to become a productive member of your team — yet the rewards are long-lasting.

When you have found a candidate who possesses the most crucial skills for your job, fill in the skills they lack by training them. Enroll them in online classes, offer reimbursement for continuing education, and/or partner them with a more senior employee who can show them the ropes. Approach employee training as investment in the future of your company. Not only will you bolster your new hires’ skills, but you will also increase the likelihood that they will stay for the long haul: An incredible 92 percent of employees report increased loyalty to companies who invest in their skills.

4. Connect with Local Universities.

The Problem: More people than ever are earning four-year degrees. In fact, the number has increased by 44 percent within the past decade. But many employers shy away from hiring young graduates because they believe they lack practical experience.

How to Make the Jump: The huge jump in university attendance has created a unique opportunity for employers. If you find recent college graduates do not meet your expectations for new candidates, reach out to local universities to form partnerships or strong ties. Ninety-six percent of academics think their programs should be in communication with potential employers to effectively assess skill needs for the workplace, but only 45 percent say they’re actively doing it.

Here’s where you come in. Do some research on universities within driving distance — including community colleges — and open pathways of communication. Let programs know what you are looking for, in terms of both soft and hard skills. Establish internships specifically for their students. Not only does this give you a method to provide feedback to programs, but also creates an opportunity to train students who could return to you after they receive degrees. This is a creative approach to vetting bright young people who might make valuable employees.

If you are among the 52 percent of employers having difficulty filling open jobs, be one of the first to institute changes to help your organization jump the skills gap. If your organization is suffering as a result of the skills gap, make the changes today that will lead to profit tomorrow.

What are your thoughts? How has your company been dealing with the skills gap? For more information on this pressing issue, download the full whitepaper here.

Stephanie Gaspary

About Stephanie Gaspary

Stephanie is the managing director of content strategy at CareerBuilder, tasked with creating opportunities to share the CareerBuilder story across job seeker and employer channels. Stephanie, a lifelong learner, holds a Master's in Business Administration and a Master's in Management - both from North Park University and a Bachelor's degree in Art from Bethel University. A Minnesotan at heart, Stephanie has lived in Chicago for nearly 20 years, is the doting mother to two wacky german shorthaired pointer pups, looks forward to her morning run *almost* as much as that first cup of coffee and vows to one day live in the mountains.

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