Skills Gap Growing as Companies Struggle to Find Capable Talent

Tuition reimbursement is one way employers are trying to boost the skills of their staff
A handful of people waiting to interview

If you’re willing to undergo training or specialized education, you may find a wealth of job opportunities, as a new study suggests companies are struggling to find the talent they need.

Education technology service provider Wiley Education Services teamed up with human resources research firm Future Workplace to gain some insight into the “skills gap” — the difference between what skills employers are seeking and what skills job applicants have. As a result of the skills gap, some employers say they can’t fill key roles in their companies because applicants don’t have the knowledge to do the job.

To conduct the study, Wiley Education Services and Future Workplace commissioned market research firm Savanta to survey 600 human resources professionals across the U.S. who represented different levels of seniority in their companies.

The survey found that employers are having an increasingly difficult time finding the talent they need, as the skills gap increased by 12% since last year. More than half of respondents — 64% — said their company faces a skills gap, up from 52% in 2018. On top of that, 44% said they found it more difficult this year to fill key positions compared to last year, while 42% said the skills gap has contributed to their company becoming less efficient.

When asked what’s driving the growing skills gap, the most cited reason (given by 37% of respondents) was that changing technology required a new set of skills. Respondents also said that the necessary skills have to be upgraded often. In fact, 40% of respondents estimated that workplace skills are usable for just four years or less before becoming obsolete.

Meanwhile, 31% of respondents said the skills gap was growing due to a lack of talent capable of moving into positions with additional responsibilities, while 30% said there was simply a lack of qualified candidates.

Note that a college degree isn’t the only way for employees to get the capabilities that employers are looking for. A vast majority — 90% — said they would be willing to hire a job applicant that does not have a four-year degree, though 68% said they do use a degree to validate hard skills.

The good news for employees is that the skills gap could provide a pathway for free education. More than half of respondents (52%) said tuition reimbursement was one way their companies looked to boost the skill levels of employees, and 88% said they covered at least part of the cost of education and training for employees.

In order to maintain a thriving career, it’s important to insure your skills keep up with the evolving needs of your company and your profession. One way to do this is to further your education.

While education and training typically are not free, there are ways to defray some of the costs. In addition to seeing whether your company offers tuition reimbursement, you can look for programs geared toward people in your own situation. For example, if you’re a woman returning to school to further your education, there are scholarships specifically geared for you.

And if you’re worried about paying for more education while you still owe student loans, check to see if your company is one of those that are helping employees pay off student debt.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.

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