Closing the skills gap is a work in progress, but business leaders are moving forward on several fronts to tackle this challenge. Business Roundtable has highlighted some of the ways that America’s largest employers are working with academia to increase the pipeline of skilled and diverse workers to join their companies and to upgrade and transform the skills of their current employees.
There are three types of skills gaps in today’s workforce, often acting in combination.
First, many individuals lack fundamental employability skills, such as the ability to use basic math, communicate e ectively, read technical manuals, work successfully in teams and participate in complex problem-solving. Many attribute these issues to the nation’s K–12 education system as the root cause of this problem, as low-performing schools and
low academic standards in many places have allowed students to graduate from high school without mastering core competencies. These individuals are unprepared to succeed in either the workplace or college. These problems can continue beyond high school, however, as many employers nd signi cant numbers of college graduates and certificate holders also deficient in these core skills (Business Roundtable Talent Survey, 2016).
Second, many trade positions remain unfilled because workers lack the specialized skills needed to fill these occupations, which often do not require a traditional two- or four- year college degree. A sampling of these jobs includes:
~ Advanced welders;
~ Energy services technicians;
~ Computer technicians; and
These jobs require specialized training that typically results in a certification or license but not necessarily a traditional college credential (although the training may count toward a degree).
Reasons for this gap include:
~ Poor labor market information on the job needs of a region and the training required to fill those jobs;
~ The difficulty of finding the right kind of training needed for specific occupations; and
~ The cost of learning a specialized skill without a clear path to post-training employment.
In the 2016 Business Roundtable Talent Survey, CEOs confirmed that their companies struggle to fill many skilled trade positions. Among the most difficult to fill were:
~ Qualified tool and die makers;
~ Solderers; and
Third, many occupations go unfilled because applicants lack the STEM skills needed for those jobs. While this shortage exists for some traditional STEM fields, it is more acutely found in newer occupations that integrate STEM knowledge with other disciplines. These emerging job areas include:
~ Data analytics; and
~ Financial services.
A key problem is that many colleges and universities do not o er programs that integrate STEM skills with other disciplines that are needed in emerging occupations. Most postsecondary institutions teach traditional STEM courses such as chemistry, engineering and math but are slow to recognize that STEM knowledge is needed for many new job categories outside of the traditional STEM elds.