As companies across industries look to grow their business, they face a common problem: hiring. And it's not necessarily for lack of available people, but for lack of the right skills. This so-called “skills gap” is hitting all sorts of industries, especially those that rely on skilled workers.
Per Bloomberg, “The National Federation of Independent Business found that as of first-quarter 2017, 45% of small businesses reported that they were unable to find qualified applicants to fill job openings.” And while the overall perception of the severity of the skills gap may have lessened, still, 56% of America’s executives see it as a major issue.
These facts have left governments, businesses, and job seekers wondering: how do we close the gap? While politicians certainly have sharply opposing methods and opinions on solving the issue, it’s largely agreed upon that we must do something. Luckily, many have started their efforts in creative ways.
Prioritizing diversity in hiring
Studies have long shown the many benefits of a diverse workforce, chief among them increased creativity, and improved attraction and retention efforts. Intel, for example, has taken a very public approach to hold themselves accountable to hiring practices to attract a more diverse pool of talent. They've also created a diversity fund that invests in only diverse startups. This allows them to find an array of talent through a new channel: acquisitions.
Global recruiting and relocation
Some companies are doing a great job of building up opportunities to engage with and recruit workers from places other than their headquarters. They are hoping this can result in a longer-term pipeline of talent coming in from a broader variety of locations by having a consistent presence there. This can mean participating in college career fairs in their region or even recruiting specific individuals across the country. Sometimes, the talent they want simply doesn’t exist in their area, and offering substantial incentives—including competitive salary, work-life balance and relocation packages—can entice said talent to move. Relocation packages can be critical. They should not just consist of basic moving fees; they should also consist of a bonus and perhaps even housing assistance.
Certificate-based retraining programs
Sometimes, a highly-skilled employee has developed such a specialized knowledge, that once their company is gone or has seen hard times, they are left with much of their practical education on the shelf while employers hire those with a more exact profile fit. To combat this “trade-displacement,” the Labor Department has funded community colleges around the country to offer such programs. The New York Times offers a great look at this from the perspective of one such worker, Kecy, who completed a six-month certificate in advanced composites manufacturing to make himself more immediately employable after being laid off from a highly specialized job.
For job candidates, adding tech skills to a resume is a huge benefit on its own, and in areas like Oregon that are facing a huge tech talent gap, it's been found that students who complete Career & Technical Education (CTE) programs actually increase their graduation rates by more than 10%. Then, upon graduation, they strengthen local talent pools.
One Eugene-based company, Palo Alto Software, saw this play out first-hand by working with a program called “Elevate Lane County.” In the spring of 2017, they welcomed a cohort of high school students who were seeking exposure to tech jobs and training. The students entered the program without much prior knowledge of the space and were able to secure academic credits for their work. Not to mention, they became part of the solution to the skills gap that the area faced.
Businesses partnering locally with schools
A great example of industry and education coming together to solve this problem is the PRIME program, or Partnership Response In Manufacturing Education initiative. According to Trade and Industry Development Magazine, “PRIME develops and implements customized educational programs for high school students based on the workforce skills requirements of local manufacturers. PRIME introduces the latest manufacturing technologies and equipment, in high school classrooms and offers students industry-relevant curriculum, often supplied by Tooling U-SME. Also, PRIME provides teachers with industry-driven training and provides students with hands-on knowledge and technical skills and opportunities to acquire industry credentials.”
“A good example of this work in action is partnerships the Foundation has formed with manufacturers such as Arconic, Shape Corp. and Honda. These companies are funding the implementation of the PRIME program where they have plant operations to seed their talent pipelines.”
Of course, at times companies will be up against the hiring clock—and simply won't have the luxury of investing in a community program to bridge their skills gap. In these cases, it is still feasible for many companies to look closely at hiring talent from outside of their community. Our team put together this guide that helps leaders determine when and how to put together relocation packages for new hires.
Offering students work-based learning opportunities is a priority of Adecco Staffing USA. One example is our partnership with the state of Kentucky’s Department of Education. We joined forces with the department to form the YES! Program, which offers high school students work-based learning opportunities at companies throughout the state. This results in students gaining new skills—and earning competitive paychecks—and companies bolstering their talent pools. So far, we’ve realized incredible success, as 82% of students have either continued their education or accepted permanent job offers in their field.
There is no doubt that America’s skills gap is real. With millions of permanent, full-time job openings (even when unemployment is relatively low), companies must think outside the box to attract and develop their best workforce, especially companies outside of major metro areas where top job candidates are like finding a needle in a haystack. Yes, that requires an investment of time and money, but it’s a necessary investment that will produce significant return over time. Find the best candidates even when they are not looking. Learn more about our direct hire services.
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