How the skills gap benefits job seekers

The skills gap is an issue that is not going away anytime soon.

Today’s employers are looking for employees who can help the business succeed from day one, but a growing skills gap is undermining efforts to secure talent — and causing employers to experience big losses in revenue, productivity and employee loyalty. This is obviously bad for employers, but is there a silver lining for job seekers?

Consider this. According to a new CareerBuilder survey, 1 in 4 employers admit they have lost revenue due to extended job vacancies. The average company can lose more than $14,000 for every job that stays open for three months or longer. One in six companies lose $25,000 or more.

What’s alarming is more than half of companies currently have open positions for which they can’t find qualified candidates. In fact, 35 percent of all employers have positions that remain open for 12 weeks or longer, so those costs can add up quickly.

And many employers see the ripple effects of the skills gap extend beyond finances. Workers, burdened with heavier workloads, have lower morale (41 percent) and produce lower quality work (30 percent). Certain work never gets done (40 percent), and work that is done is not delivered on time (34 percent).

Why the skills gap means new opportunity
These financial and performance setbacks can cause businesses to fall short of achieving their full potential, but what does this mean for job seekers? One, employers may be willing to pay a premium for the right talent. When it comes to hard-to-fill positions, 30 percent report they have increased wages and 42 percent say they are considering it.

Two, employers are investing more in training to create the perfect job candidate instead of waiting for one.

This year, 49 percent of employers will train workers who don’t have experience in their industries or fields, which is a 10 percent increase over last year. This is good news for the 72 percent of job seekers who say that they are willing to take a job in a different field than their current one and try out new career paths.

For these job seekers, the key to making this shift is not only being open to a new path but also to knowing which fields have the most opportunity. Employers who are hiring in 2014 said that the areas in which they are experiencing the most difficulty in filling open positions are:

  • Computer and mathematical occupations (71 percent)
  • Architecture and engineering occupations (70 percent)
  • Management occupations (66 percent)
  • Health care practitioners and technical occupations (56 percent)
  • Installation, maintenance and repair occupations (55 percent)
  • Legal occupations (53 percent)
  • Business and financial operations (52 percent)
  • Personal care and services occupations (50 percent)
  • Sales and related occupations (47 percent)
  • Production occupations (41 percent)

What needs to change
Workers are willing to take a leap out of their comfort zones, but they need help to succeed.

For example, if colleges, universities and businesses work together, they have the potential to affect the skills gap in a positive way. Ninety-six percent of surveyed academics feel their institutions should be talking to employers about the skills they require; 55 percent admit this only happens a little or not at all. Fortunately, many educators are proactively making changes within their control. Fifty-four percent of academics say they are adjusting their curriculum based on local demands or shifts among employers.

In an effort to bridge the skills gap, businesses have begun taking a proactive approach within their organizations and by collaborating with others. In fact, CareerBuilder is working with major brands to support their efforts to close the skills gap and empower employment. More than 50 companies have made commitments as part of this initiative, including:

  • Randstad coaches university students on choosing career paths, the skills they need and building effective résumés. Its Inspiring Experts campaign also aims to motivate, inform and educate future generations of workers to explore high-demand industries, such as STEM.
  • Bosch established The Bosch Community Fund, which supports a variety of STEM and environmental education initiatives and partners with FIRST Robotics and A World In Motion (AWIM) to motivate students to pursue engineering, robotics and other technical careers.
  • MasTec, Inc. offers in-house tower technician, home security and field service technician training, as well as advancement and leadership opportunities for veterans through their Warriors 4 Wireless program.
  • Cisco has increased certified networking talent from 1 million to 2 million people in the last five years through its Learning@Cisco program. Its Cisco Networking Academy helps people gain skills needed to build, design and maintain computer networks.

The skills gap is an issue that is not going away anytime soon. There is a growing disconnect between the skills employers need and the skills that are being cultivated in today’s labor market. In “The Talent Equation,” a book I co-authored with Lorin Hitt and Prasanna Tambe, we found that 8 in 10 employers express concern over an emerging skills gap, but only 4 in 10 say their company is doing anything to alleviate it. The onus is on businesses and the public sector to work side by side to identify where there is a deficit of talent and to reskill workers to close the gaps within their communities.

Matt Ferguson is the CEO of CareerBuilder and author of “The Talent Equation: Big Data Lessons for Navigating the Skills Gap and Building a Competitive Workforce.”