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Rethink the Skills Gap, Part III: Who is Responsible?

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The skills gap has proven to be a tangled, multifaceted problem facing the American workforce today. One solution won’t fill the gap, but economists and experts have nonetheless offered theories about where the skills gap came from, and who could fix it:

 

Academic Institutions

Some companies and candidates blame academic institutions for not adequately preparing students with the skills they need in the real world: 55% of job seekers and 37% of employers cite gaps in education as the top cause of the skills gap.

The educational system is often blamed, yet it can also be the solution: Obama recently proposed a program to offer free tuition to any students attending community college. The Harvard Business Review reports that 26% of job openings today require less than four years of post-secondary training, and only 16% of job openings require onsite training for more than six months.

Encouraging students to attend trade schools and community college is not a new concept… but as the middle-skills gap grows, it’s more important than ever to actively discuss career path options with students early, and help them find the academic choice that will fit their plans best.

 

Job Seekers

There are many institutional and macro factors involved in the skills gap, however job seekers sit at the heart of the debate. From skills training to wage expectations, many would argue the problems and solutions fall on the job seeker’s shoulders. They are characterized as ill-prepared for today’s jobs.

Most job seekers agree a skills gap exists, and many acknowledge their own shortcomings as part of the problem: 47% of job seekers cite a gap in wage expectations, and 42% believe their own lack of knowledge about career opportunities is to blame.

There are a lot of steps job seekers can take to remove themselves from falling into the skills gap. Job seekers can take classes to hone their skills, such as programming or writing. They can accept temporary or contract assignments in order to gain more work experience and new skills, and they can practice their interviewing skills in order to best present themselves as qualified candidates.

 

Companies

Several economists name employers as the culprits for the skills gap: they point to the significant increase in job openings over the past five years, saying companies are unwilling to offer higher wages to qualified candidates. If skilled workers are in such high demand, companies should be willing to offer higher compensation to hire them…but reality hasn’t followed this reasoning. Half of employers claim they have not adjusted wages since the Recession to account for the hiring surge.

Peter Cappelli, a prominent skills gap expert, argues employers complain about the skills gap because they don’t want to pay more for new hires. Cappelli connects this trend to the continued decline of on-the-job training: he contends companies want the public sector to offer this training instead.

 

No one group is solely to blame for the skills gap and the problems it causes, but each can take real action to lessen the negative effects and prevent the gap from growing bigger.

To find out more about solutions companies can implement to alleviate the effects of the skills gap, download our white paper, Rethinking the Skills Gap.

 

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