The Skills Gap and the State of the Economy

Job seekers lack soft skillsThere are plenty of available jobs in the U.S. Unfortunately, there’s no one to fill them.

This is just one of the surprising findings revealed in a 2012 white paper by the World Economic Forum. 600,000 jobs are currently unfilled in the manufacturing sector alone. This figure seems at odds with the unemployment rates that have become a media mainstay over past several years. With so many people out of work, how can so many jobs be open?

The problem, it turns out, is a considerable gap between the skills American workers have and the skills they need to perform in the contemporary industrial workplace.

According to the white paper, 67% of industrial hirers polled experience substantial difficulty finding employees skilled enough to do the available jobs. 56% polled said that they anticipate the problem getting worse in the near future.

To understand more about this issue, we recently surveyed 500 senior executives in a variety of industries. Their responses emphatically underscore the World Economic Forum’s findings: a troubling skills gap exists in the United States, and it threatens the very future of American business.

An overwhelming 92% of executives we polled reportedly believe that a gap exists between the skills workers have and the skills they need to perform in the current economy. 30% of these executives believe that the gap affects the manufacturing sector the most.

When asked about specifics, it’s hardly a surprise that the executives cited technical (22%), leadership (14%), and computer skills (12%) as lacking among the current workforce. The skill that topped the list, however, is a surprise. 44% of executives reported that soft skills — intangibles like communication, creativity, collaboration and critical thinking — were lacking among hires and job candidates.

Without the ability to think critically, collaborate, or communicate, employees and employers alike will find it difficult to solve basic problems and foster a productive company culture. Innovation will also suffer if those who engage with the company’s products or services on a daily basis can’t find collaborative and creative ways to solve routine issues.

For a more in-depth look at how the skills gap affects companies and the economy overall, stay tuned. Be sure to check out the second installment of this three-part series, Why the Skills Gap Matters for Your Business, for more insights into the skills gap.