The Great Skills Mismatch

Despite persistently high unemployment numbers, companies are struggling to find engineers and skilled laborers. What’s behind this gap—and what can today’s CEOs do to find the talent they need?

Nine Tips to Work With Community Colleges on the Great Jobs Mismatch

  1. The first step is recognizing that you have a problem, whether it manifests itself through too many job openings or through poor productivity, high turnover and poor safety among existing workers.
  2. Create an internal process, perhaps with a human resources chief, to determine what skills need to be obtained or improved.
  3. Select a nearby community college that has a track record of successful training and retraining. Get involved with its board or advisory committees that shape its curriculum. Your personal involvement is essential because it opens up full channels of communication.
  4. After observation, ask the community college if your workers could benefit from its existing courses or if the college will create specialized courses. To find new workers, contribute old equipment to classes and dispatch key specialists to co-teach classes. Think of it as a three- to five-year relationship.
  5. If retraining, decide whether the courses should be offered at the college, which provides psychological distance from the workplace, or whether professors should come to a company setting to offer instruction.
  6. Adopt a liberal employment reimbursement policy, which will encourage all streams of workers constantly to seek new skills. Some companies even pay for community college for workers who are not yet on staff.
  7. In some cases, the community college will secure funding from state workforce-development agencies. In other cases, the burden of doing that falls to the company. But the net effect is that the cost to the company is reduced.
  8. Constantly re-evaluate the success of retraining classes. It may be reflected in productivity numbers or some other statistical indicator, but chances are that informal assessments will be more meaningful than a formal return on investment number.
  9. Think of it as an ongoing process. A single worker could take multiple courses over a period of time and obtain progressively more advanced, “stackable” credentials that make him or her feel that the company is investing in its talent, thereby building loyalty.


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