Bridging the Skills Gap

By |

Bridging the skills gap is crucial to keeping your business in operation. In coming years, the dwindling number of skilled workers will make it difficult to fill all the positions that require those skills. While the industry can recognize it, it hasn't figured out how to solve the issue. It's important that you first know the picture created by skills gap statistics. You can't anticipate something without learning about it. Then, it's important to contribute to the solutions that will help your business find skilled workers into the future.

Skills Gap Statistics

The skills gap statistics become starker by the day. Eighty-three percent of HR professionals report that they've had difficulty recruiting candidates who meet the skill requirements of their positions in the last year. More than a third say the quality of applicants has decreased, while nearly half (45%) say that applications for specific positions have become less related to a position.

The reasons for this span a wide range. Competition from other employers is fierce, indicating that more businesses are trying to snap up the skilled workers who are still available. Newer candidates lack the proper experience being sought. More than a third of businesses say that the candidates they find lack in the proper technical skills.

The industry that leads the field in the skills gap is by far the construction industry. Construction accounts for a full 31% of businesses reporting that their candidates lack necessary technical skills. The next closest is data science, making up 20% of such businesses.

More than half of respondents – 51% - say that education and training systems aren't doing enough to provide skilled workers. This may be identifying a symptom and not a cause, however. The problem may be less about education and training, and more about access to both.

Why is This?

Understand that laziness is not a factor. Some like to throw this around as a way of insulting various generations. They suggest that Millennials and Gen Z workers are somehow less willing to put effort forth. That's not the problem.

The problem for workers today is under-employment. They have to fit together two jobs just to make what one once paid. In many cases, it's not a matter of finding work, it's a matter of finding work that pays well enough. Workers today are stuck in circumstances that require they overwork themselves just to keep their place in society. That means they don't have the time or money to invest in themselves to improve their circumstances.

A few decades ago, a part-time job would have paid for college, trade school, or for other professional training, with enough left over to help with a car, rent, or bills. Older generations took advantage of that to invest in themselves and build up their qualifications and experience.

Now, two jobs often can't even accomplish the educational factor of that, let alone help someone manage a car, rent, or bills. Younger generations can't invest in themselves and build up their skills training the same way because they're already overworking themselves just to get by.

Beyond this, Millennials came of working age during the recession. They saw the construction industry struggle during that time. Their view of the industry isn't one of constant growth that other generations grew up under. Their view of the industry is that it's susceptible to downturns, and not necessarily the same reliable source of income it was for decades before that.

You cannot draw talent in without recognizing how these two factors influence younger generations when it comes to their: 1) financial ability to gain qualifications and 2) perception of the construction industry.

Solutions for Bridging the Skills Gap

Expand your advertising efforts, certainly. Be more precise when you seek out skilled workers. Offer referral bonuses to current workers when you hire someone they recommend. Keep in touch with skilled workers you've employed previously. Keep them on longer when practical so you can improve retention. These are all short-term solutions that can and will help.

At the same time, those short-term solutions don't solve the overall problem. To do this, businesses need to invest in their employees, and work with other businesses who can find employees who are worth investing in. Start with labor staffing agencies. These can span a wide net to help you find qualified skilled workers. They can increase the pool of applicants you're drawing from, which ensures a higher quality of applicants who make the final cut of interviews.

Large labor staffing agencies are also skilled at finding training for employees. Those staffing agencies have a significant interest in seeing more skilled workers in the workforce. That improves their own business. Remember, these agencies do much more than simply find good employees for you. They also act as a middle-man who communicates constantly between job seekers, trade schools, unions, contractors, and businesses. They're some of your best resources for bolstering your business for years to come.

Your own business can benefit from investing in particular workers. Temporary employees can allow you to “audition” workers. You may decide to hire those who are a good fit on a longer-term. With more stability comes the financial security to pursue extra training while working for you. This can enable them to become your skilled workers of the future.

Start Recruiting

It's a good idea to grow closer to the organizations that can provide this training. A business can develop productive relationships with organizations and institutions that bring training and work experience closer together. Right now, entering the workforce feels like a major leap. While there's definitely a skills gap, there are still a lot of overqualified people working at coffee shops and fast food chains. That's because finding a job someone is qualified in can become a full-time job in and of itself.

People take service-industry jobs to bridge their own financial gap while looking for skilled positions. There's a lack of support for new skilled workers coming out. Businesses need to grow closer to schools and to staffing agencies that help newer skilled workers find a good position rather than fall through the cracks. In other words, don't just start hiring. Start recruiting.

There are countless ways to do this. Sure, your business might attend job fairs. Does it attend high school job fairs? Does it sponsor high school athletic or club activities? Does it hold scholarship contests to help high schoolers pay for part of their trade school education?

This works for older workers, too. Sponsor a community team or group. Focus on job fairs in communities that have suffered layoffs. Do you offer trade-school grants? Do you help with tuition reimbursement? Can you assist with childcare costs?

The costs aren't as significant as you might think at first. You don't have to pay for a full-boat scholarship or full tuition reimbursement. They're not even asking for the process to be easy. They're just asking for it to be hard instead of impossible. People are interested in these jobs – they just don't have the means to get to where they want to be in the same way that people have in decades past.

A little bit of help here and there can make a difference, and once you have relationships with trade schools, or childcare businesses, you may see some breaks they can pass along to you, your employees, and students you're helping because you've so consistently sent them business. Recruiting is about building relationships – not just with your recruits, but with the community of other organizations that are also on their path.

It's not an easy, cut and dry answer because bridging the skills gap is a large, generational problem. But it is an answer that a little bit of relationship building every day can begin to solve – and that is work that also invests in the long-term health and prosperity of your business.

Start Here: Labor For Hire

Start bridging the skills gap with help from Labor for Hire. Experienced in sourcing, vetting, and securing skilled laborers, we will empower your business to meet customer demand, grow, and thrive. Contact us today - for a strong, profitable tomorrow.

Download a Checklist for Hiring a Labor Staffing Agency | Labor for Hire