There is a skills gap and it is bigger than you may think.
The Skills Gap Is Real
In this Forbes article “The Alarming Economic Trend Behind GE’s Odd Ad Campaign” Rob Salkowitz explained why GE is using television ads to target potential employees. The article states:
During the recession and shallow recovery years, the slack labor market gave employers an advantage in recruiting young workers. Now that things are heating up, especially in the high-tech sector and startup economy, it’s getting more difficult for old line companies to fill jobs that require engineering, tech and data science skills.
Here’s one of the GE ads geared towards recruiting candidates with these skill sets.
What Skills Are Hardest To Find?
As mentioned above engineering, tech and data science skills are in-demand. But what exactly are these skills? I asked Dr. Peter Hirst, Associate Dean, MIT Sloan Executive Education, what skills he sees as some of the hardest skills to find.
“Business and data analytics are among the hardest to find at the moment and the demand seems only to be increasing. And what’s particularly difficult is the combination of being able to process data and the business and commercial acumen necessary to usefully interpret the data into actionable insights.”
But it isn’t just hard skills or technical skills that employers are struggling to find. Adaptability and the ability to thrive in ambiguity are also important. According to Hirst: “Another thing that we keep hearing is about the soft skills that people need to work in fast moving, multidisciplinary teams—to learn, re-learn, and unlearn skills needed to cope with the rapid pace of change. The key issue here is the ability for workers to reskill again and again.”
What Are Employers Doing To Fill the Gap?
Hirst says some employers are pulling out all the stops! One company, in particular, is “retraining their existing people, doing everything they can to attract and hire new people, contracting freelancers (there is a whole new and growing segment of the workforce who are not interested in working for just one company)—and are still unable to meet the demand” says Hirst.
Not being able to find enough people with these skills is a big and expensive problem. So what’s the solution?
Top Down Support & Training
If you can’t find it, you might as well create it! Companies already have great employees, so why not start with them!
That’s exactly what Hirst says he’s seeing through the executive and management development programs at MIT Sloan School of Management.
“The most effective learning and development occur when senior leaders right up to the CEO play a hands-on role in setting the vision, defining the needs, emphasizing the priorities and even, at key junctures, delivering the learning, whether by showing up in the classroom or by coaching their direct reports and teams as opposed to simply ‘directing’ them” according to Hirst.
More Data On In-Demand Skills
Bloomberg asked 1,251 job recruiters at 547 companies about the skills they want but can’t find. Here is the summary of findings (from the class of 2015).
Bentley University conducted similar analysis which I wrote about here. Bentley examined labor market analytics data from 24.5 million U.S. job listings to find out which skills are in highest demand right now, pay the most and have seen the highest growth in recent years.