Leveraging Training and Development to Conquer the Global Skills Gap

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Photo by Sonja Guina on Unsplash

As the pace of technological innovation continues to increase, more positions open every day for highly-skilled workers. The inevitable result is a growing shortage of candidates with the required skills to fill these positions.

In a recent study from the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), 82% of respondents said they had difficulty recruiting for open positions in the past 12 months. Of these, 75% say a shortage of skilled candidates causes this difficulty.

New and innovative methods are necessary to solve this global skill gap and to ensure a sustainable workforce for future jobs.

Two effective strategies for reducing the skill gap are the use of training and development strategies to retain talent, and the re-alignment of education systems to more effectively prepare students for future jobs.

Training and Development

If the problem is a lack of new talent, perhaps the solution is to look to existing employees to fill open positions.

According to Manpower’s global study on how companies are dealing with the talent gap, 54% of companies worldwide now offer internal training programs to help retain existing employees and prepare them for more skilled positions.

A 2014 IBM report offers an in-depth look at the value of lifelong learning and internal training programs.

In the report, IBM states that:

“Only 21% of new hires intend to stay at companies that do not offer training for their current jobs. However […] 62% of new hires intend to stay when training is provided.”

By providing ongoing training that recognizes employees’ individual learning styles and goals, companies can close their internal skill gap by retaining existing talent.

Innovation in Educational Institutions

Effective training and development with organizations rely on a foundation of qualified candidates to fill entry-level roles. No one company can afford to train every hire in the full array of skill needed to be successful in their job role.

To close the skill gap in the general workforce, effective public schools and university systems are essential.

Public education and university systems are the most effective platform for providing individuals with both hard and soft skills necessary for success in skilled positions.

The Soft Skills Gap

Lack of candidates with the right soft skills — like problem-solving and critical thinking — was reported as an obstacle to hiring by 30% of respondents in the SHRM study.

Results from a pilot program in UK secondary schools show how public schools are the perfect environment for competency-based education in soft skills.

Unfortunately, most public school systems adhere to learning models based on seat-time and standardized tests. This is despite evidence that standardized testing fails to produce effective education outcomes.

According to the SHRM study,

“51% of respondents say education systems have done little or nothing to help address the skills shortage issue.”

By re-aligning public education to use competency-based teaching models and to focus on soft skills, schools can better prepare students for future jobs.

The Hard Skills Gap

Of course, all the communication skills in the world won’t help your new data scientist if she can’t write Python code.

HR professionals report that the skills most-lacking among candidates are the hard technical skills like data analysis and engineering.

Universities and trade schools are considered the best environment for teaching hard skills. However, the traditional structure of university education is typically focused on research rather than employability.

To change this, companies like Microsoft have launched efforts to collaborate directly with universities to create career-specific programs.

Microsoft’s collaborations with institutions like the London School of Economics and Political Science, Staffordshire College, and Bellevue University offer Microsoft training courses directly as part of the curriculum. This kind of collaboration allows students to get college credit for skill-based training that will directly benefit their ability to fill specialized job roles upon graduation.

A Humanistic Approach to a Complex Problem

Solutions to closing the talent gap will always be imperfect. As long as humans continue to innovate, the ability to train skilled workers will lag behind the pace of new technology.

We can reduce the gap, though, by making more effective use of the three pillars of our existing learning infrastructure:

  • A learning system that use competency-based education models to teach soft skills.
  • Universities that collaborate with businesses to target specific hard skills.
  • Companies that provide internal training and lifelong learning opportunities.

Reducing the global skills gap can be accomplished by integrating these three elements to make learning adaptive, personalized, and ongoing.

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