The Skills Gap and the State of the Economy

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There 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.

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