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Surviving and Thriving Despite a Skills Gap

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ceoDean is the founder and CEO of a mid-sized, DC-based cybersecurity consulting firm. At his company, there’s no shortage of customers in need, opportunity, and innovation.

What are they short on? Qualified applicants seeking employment at the firm. The company has many open positions with very few candidates with the right skills to fill them.

Unfortunately for Dean, technology is one of the industries most affected by a skills gap that the country is facing, the worst talent shortage since 2007. It is estimated that there will be 1.4 million computing and engineering positions to fill by 2020. However, according to study conducted by Code.org, it is approximated that only 400,000 students will graduate with a computer science degree.

“The U.S. is experiencing a workforce skills gap that is holding our economy back and threatening our economic growth”

That’s according to a report from The Business Roundtable, Work in Progress: How CEOs Are Helping Close America’s Skills Gap. The study identified 3 types of gaps:

  • A lack of individuals with fundamental employability skills, such as basic math, reading, and the ability to communicate effectively
  • A lack of workers who have specialized skills needed to fill trade positions
  • And, the reason why Dean’s company is in jeopardy, a lack of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills

A survey of its CEO members revealed that more than half believe that talent gaps are already problematic or very problematic for their companies and industries.

And it’s affecting HR teams as well. With a shortage of qualified applicants to present to hiring managers and promotable talent from within, smart HR professionals need to be strategic and creative to maintain their workforce.

Attacking the Skills Gap Head On

HR and business leaders are increasingly turning to the following tactics to close the skills gap in their organizations.

Providing Apprenticeship Opportunities

Apprenticeship-type programs combine internal or external training programs with on-the-job experience. Some companies partner with local community colleges to create courses customized for employees to ensure that they meet specific organizational skills requirements. Connecticut’s Capital Community College is one such institution. Their insurance-related program allows students to earn a salary while gaining on-the-job training. Those who successfully complete the program will (hopefully) transition into a full-time job.

Developing An Employee Training Program

Many employers are providing education and learning opportunities for their current employees to help them acquire new skills. A smart program begins with a thorough analysis of the organization’s needs and goals to identify the skills that are lacking and the individuals who are most likely to benefit. Organizations may develop the curricula themselves or turn to an outside training firm for assistance. To be most effective, programs should be consistent and flexible based on feedback and results.

Offering Tuition Assistance

According to Deloitte, 71% of U.S. employers offer tuition assistance to their employees. The benefits for an organization are two-fold—1: employees obtain the skills needed to succeed in their jobs, and 2: employees feel valued, more engaged and are more likely to remain loyal to the organization.

Demonstrating to your team that you are committed to their professional growth is the best way to close the skills gap and prepare your business for whatever the future holds.

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