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Understanding The Skills Gap

A multi-variate study sheds light on a vexing nationwide problem

The conversations overheard at Chief Executive Group events this year undoubtedly echo conversations you’re having with your board, your CHRO and the heads of every division in your organization: how to deal with the skills gap that has made it difficult for companies to fill available jobs, increase productivity, navigate change and fuel the disruptive activity that is essential for survival in this economy.

In an effort to get to the bottom of this question, a centrist think tank called Third Way released a study that combined five measures (job fill rate, wage gains, education and credential attainment, employer surveys and state analyses of labor supply and demand) in order to smooth out prejudices or data inadequacies inherent in specific statistics.

Although Third Way’s research indicated a nationwide, cross-industry skills gap, they found some critical variations by industry, state and cause. For example: Technology jobs, across various skill levels, are going unfilled due to a lack of qualified candidates.

The U.S. Department of Labor noted that this problem was particularly evident for companies seeking “computer user support specialists” in Missouri and California and for those looking for software developers and computer programmers in New York and Washington, D.C.

Financial services, Third Way warns, is on the verge of a worker shortage, although wages have been rising to lure skilled workers to available jobs. Underlying this potential shortage, Third Way suggests, is the age of the workforce: with millennials flocking to other industries, there are fewer employees to replace retiring baby boomers.

Baby boomer retirement will also contribute to worker shortages in manufacturing and construction. Even though manufacturing wages are solid, Third Way notes that an increase in college attendance has made manufacturing training programs less attractive. And this, they suggest, is likely to lead to the loss of U.S.-based manufacturing jobs “as companies relocate to countries with a larger supply of qualified workers.

SKILLS GAP: training or education not sufficient
SKILLS SHORTAGE: training adequate, too few people being trained
SKILLS MISMATCH: supply and demand are out of sync


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