How Businesses Can Help Close the Skills Gap

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The-skills-gap-is-realAddressing the ongoing skills gap in the job market is a complex challenge that requires buy-in from every party involved: educators, job seekers, educational institutions, and employers and businesses as well. Placing the burden of responsibility on educators isn’t a sustainable solution, though it is true that these institutions require reform and adjustment, especially earlier on in the educational system. To see positive change more rapidly, businesses would be wise to undertake some of the responsibility in closing the skills gap. Here are a few things that employers can start implementing to get job seekers up to speed in the short-term and contribute to closing the skills gap in the long-term:

Incorporate training and transparency into your hiring process

Many large companies like Target, Goldman Sachs, and Macy’s “are known for their long-standing, innovative training programs for recent college graduates.” Incorporating training into their hiring process allows for a more diverse set of employees with varying backgrounds – yet they all possess a common understanding of the way the company works and how to best contribute. Establishing a training program means that companies have a much broader pool of talent to work with; when the skills can be taught in an efficient manner, candidates need only be coachable, intelligent, and talented as team players – traits that can be found within any academic background. Indeed, establishing a training program from scratch can be expensive, and many companies don’t have the resources to do so in the short-term. For those companies, a good alternative is to work with a staffing agency that provides additional training assistance to make the hiring process easier.

Another solution to meet job candidates halfway is to provide as much transparency as possible in job descriptions. In general, job descriptions would be much more likely to find a “match” if they listed out skills alongside equivalent training or other experiences that would also suffice. Many times, traditional job descriptions are vague and can rule out candidates who are actually qualified but possess an alternative skill that is equivalent to the posted requirements. When a certain job demands a highly specific skill set that can be attained over time, clarify the exact training or background needed and be open minded to candidates who accomplish this education through alternative mediums, such as online courses or other localized training programs.

Establish a culture of learning from within your company

Within organizations, employers should constantly strive to invest in their employees’ training and progression of skills to see a higher return on investment (and a more engaged team). Empower management levels to close skill gaps for their own employees – not just future candidates. Simply making an internal move often demands a new set of skills and a time frame for learning and adjustment. Set your employees up for success internally by ensuring that any horizontal or promotional opportunities come with a clear “list” of skill set requirements and the opportunity to obtain this type of training internally or outsource to coach the employee.

Ultimately, businesses are a part of the solution when it comes to closing the skills gap. Employers should consistently seek out new ways to clarify the hiring process, empower their current employees, and accommodate future employees through transparency and training opportunities.

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Claire Topalian is a writer, non-profit Communications professional, and advocate for diversity in business. She currently leads Communications and the Startup Women initiative at UP Global, an international non-profit that builds startup communities through educational programs and events. You can follow her on Twitter @clairetopalian.

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