It’s something employers can’t stop talking about: the middle-skills gap.
There are too many job openings that don’t require a college degree but do require additional training beyond a high school diploma, and not enough workers are qualified to fill them.
The problem is not going away, either. In a 2014 report from Accenture, 73 percent of employees said they expect their needs for middle-skilled employees to increase over the next few years. Yet, employers aren’t doing anything about it.
The 2015 Talent Shortage Survey by the Manpower Group found that only one in five employers are providing additional training to current employees and just one in 10 are looking to tap into new talent pools.
Unless companies take proactive steps, the middle-skills gap will never close. Here are three strategies your company can enact to get the skilled workers you need:
1. Start defining and offering clear career paths
For workers who don’t attend a four-year university, one of the greatest obstacles to getting the qualifications for a middle-skills job is not knowing how to obtain them.
One solution now exists, specifically for GED students. The GED Testing Service has partnered with my edtech startup, PathSource, to provide free access to top-of-the-line career exploration guidance to help GED students identify their desired career goal and develop a path to achieving it.
But employers also need to play their part.
Have your company clearly define how new hires and current employees can develop within the company — and the best way for your company to support employee onboarding and advancement. Whether training is done in-house or through partnerships with community colleges, these career paths will attract workers who are motivated to obtain middle-skills jobs.
Defined career paths will also help you retain current employees. A 2015 survey by Mercer revealed that 78 percent of employees would stay with their current place of employment if they could see a clear way to advance there.
2. Invest in training for the workers you have
Many companies still hope previously-trained employees exist and the challenge is simply finding them. So, employers continue to sit and wait for middle-skilled workers who don’t exist, while current employees with untapped potential find opportunities elsewhere.
The 2015 Talent Acquisition Factbook from Bersin by Deloitte found that it takes companies an average of 52 days to fill open positions. Instead of continuing to waste nearly two months of resources trying to find the perfect candidate, start investing in ways to create the perfect candidate out of the talent you already employ. Tell your employees about the jobs you need filled and see who’d be interested in stepping up to fill them.
Even if your company doesn’t have the means for effective in-house training, you can partner up with an institution that does.
Reach out to a community college or online university and find programs that allow employees to learn, while continuing to work.
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Remember, schools want students as much as you want skilled employees. If your workforce can guarantee a certain number of enrollments, the institute might even collaborate with you to develop a program specific to the needs of your company.
Creating these partnerships will require bandwidth and considerable effort, but in time, they’ll produce the employees and results your company needs to thrive.
3. Nurture talent pools within the educational system
Personal finances are a significant factor in preventing people from continuing their training. Many workers who want to earn additional qualifications can’t afford to do so.
Fund scholarships to schools or programs your company trusts, and you’ll know the recipients are receiving the kind of training that your company looks for in its own talent pool. Give students an extra incentive to complete their programs by offering employment opportunities for after graduation.
Consider offering your workplace as a location for students, interns, and apprentices to gain valuable on-the-job experience as well. Schools need settings that allow students to apply what they are learning in the classroom, so help them out. Plus, it gives you a sneak peek at motivated students who would be good hires after completing their program.
These types of educational institutions are the middle-skill talent pools you’ve been waiting for, but they need to be nurtured.
By supporting community colleges and other training programs, you’ll build a reliable pipeline for great employees.
What other tactics can employers take to begin to close the middle-skills gap?