A skills gap is the disparity between the skills and knowledge employees have and the skills and knowledge those same employees need to be proficient at their jobs. The gap can manifest in either hard skills (skills that can be demonstrated in a measurable way, like a machinist’s proficiency in running their machine), soft skills (how an employee works, like time management, collaboration skills, and work ethic) or a combination of both. In this first of a three-article series about the current skills gap in the U.S., we’ll explore what a skills gap is and its impact on society.
A certain skills gap is to be expected when an employee starts a new job, which is why training, learning, and professional development should be an integral part of any successful company’s business model. Expecting a new person to come into a job and already know everything about it is patently unrealistic. The ‘newbie’ skills gap (when it is simply the result of an anticipated learning curve) is not a problem as long as the employee has the requisite knowledge and abilities to learn what is needed in a reasonable time and the employer has the training programs in place to teach said employee what he or she should know.
A skills gap becomes more problematic, however, if employees don’t even have the basic abilities or knowledge required for a job, and the time it would take them to learn what is needed would be an untenable drain on the company’s productivity and resources. This kind of gap can be the result of ill-prepared candidates entering the workforce or the fact that technology changes at a mind-boggling pace and companies aren’t teaching and training their workers to keep up as changes arise (BetterUp.com). In fact, Gartner TalentNeuron™ data indicates that since 2017, the skills required for any one job have increased by 10% every year (Gartner HR Research).
Clearly, the skills gap issue is real and growing in this country, and its effects are two-fold. Employers are having a difficult time finding qualified people to hire, and people are having a hard time finding jobs they are suited for (Brookings). It’s a lose-lose situation, as illustrated by a recent Deloitte report, which states that, “The skills gap may leave an estimated 2.4 million positions unfilled between 2018 and 2028, with a potential economic impact of $2.5 trillion.”
With these numbers in mind, we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that according to 2020 research conducted Monster Worldwide, Inc., most hiring managers pinpointed the skills gap and its effect on finding qualified candidates as their most anticipated challenge for 2021. A whopping 80% of employers who responded to the survey said they had already noticed increased difficulties in filling openings due to the skills gaps as compared to the year before (Monster.com).
In the next article we’ll begin to explore why there’s a skills gap. We’ll do a deeper dive into the societal changes and influences that have created this gap before delving into the question of how to address it in the final article.