Questions Answered to Help You Overcome the Skills Gap & Grow Your Workforce

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Throughout our recent webinar, Acquire and Retain Talent, Despite the Skills Gap, we discussed causes of the skills gap and identified industries most affected, as well as reviewed solutions to overcoming the gap in order to grow your company. We received many thoughtful questions and comments from attendees – so many, in fact, that we didn’t have time to answer each one.

Fortunately, our great panelists agreed to follow up on the questions they weren’t able to answer during the webinar Q&A. Questions include:

  • What kind of soft skills should universities and colleges teach STEM students to help them become more attractive, qualified candidates?
  • To help shorten the skills gap, how can business leaders motivate current employees to build on their skill sets and technical knowledge?
  • In your opinion, what STEM positions are we going to see continue to increase in demand during the next 5 years?
  • Do you have any thoughts on dealing with maturity and professionalism in the workforce?

Continue reading for answers to these questions from our three panelists.

Q: What kind of soft skills should universities and colleges teach STEM students to help them become more attractive, qualified candidates?

Gary Beach: I prefer to refer to “soft skills” with the term “employability skills”. The National Association of Colleges and Employers recently completed a survey that provides great detail on the employability skills wanted. I have included a link to study findings here. “Leadership” and “ability to work in a team” top the list followed closely by “communication skills”, “problem solving skills” and “having a strong work ethic.”

Watch the webinar online here!

Q: To help shorten the skills gap, how can business leaders motivate current employees to build on their skill sets and technical knowledge?

Jesse Wright: I think a great way to get them to build on their skill set and technical knowledge is to get them engaged outside of the organization through associations and professional user groups. Encourage them to participate and be an active sponsor in their involvement. They are familiar with your environment, so engagement in these types of organizations will let them collaborate with other professionals in their skill set and exposes them to techniques, tools and trends being used by other firms. This can spark training opportunities organically within the association or provide insight to other development opportunities. Best part about it, is it is driven by them.

Q: In your opinion, what STEM positions are we going to see continue to increase in demand during the next 5 years? 

Lou Franco: I mainly know software, but from my perspective:

  • Anything Big Data: analysis, statistics, but also big data IT administration
  • We’re already way behind on software development – there’s a big shortage at all levels, and in many areas (web, mobile, etc.) — this will continue to get worse in the five-year time frame.

See some 2022 predictions here, and below.

2022 predictions

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program (employment, projections, and education data) and Occupational Employment Statistics survey (wage data).

Q: Do you have any thoughts on dealing with maturity and professionalism in the workforce?

Jesse Wright: There is always a challenge in balancing internal equity and legacy pay grades with current market expectations.  It is also hard to reconcile the value of the institutional knowledge and business “wisdom” that can only be gained by experience in the workplace environment against the awareness and engagement in newer trends and technologies.  The reality is probably a mixture of a “rising tide lifts all boats” in terms of pay grades and an acceptance that even though entry level talent may not have the workplace experience of existing staff they are bringing with them an entirely different paradigm and set of ideas and experiences.  Value the unique experience they bring as not less, but different than existing staff.  In terms of soft skills like “maturity” or “professionalism”, I would argue that that is probably more a reflection of the character of the person themselves, rather than a reflection of years of experience.  I have met some incredibly professional and mature new grads and have worked with some very non-professional and immature veteran co-workers.  Having clear expectations of the culture of the organization as it pertains to these skills applies to all employees.

Gary Beach: The aging workforce is an important sourcing concern in the years ahead. Here’s an interesting statistic: the median age of an information technology worker in the United States is 53 years old. That cuts both ways. First, it is a red flag for firms to do a skills inventory of their older workers to ascertain the unique skills they may be taking into retirement with them. If those skills are considered “mission critical”, now is the time to aggressively put in place a skills transfer to younger workers on staff. Second, the natural migration of older, Baby Boomer workers is a fantastic career advancement opportunity for Millennial workers. In fact, later this year there will be more Millennial workers (born after 1980) in the workforce than Baby Boomer workers. To advance, these younger workers need to excel at the “employability skills” referred to in a prior question.”

Missed the webinar? Don’t worry!

You can still receive HRCI recertification credit if you view the webinar on-demand prior to August 19, 2015 – just be sure to fill out the form you see prior to watching. For a full recap of our webinar, check out this blog post.

Watch the webinar online here!

Contributor

While she’s settling down in the Sunshine State, Meredith is a Carolina girl by birth. She earned her Master’s from the College of Charleston, but NC State will always be #1 in her heart. In the world of Adecco Group marketing, she writes thought leadership content and sends emails. Her life-long dream is to sail around the world with her husband and dog.

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