Talent Development as a Remedy to Skills Gap

While it is good news that in the United States (US) unemployment reached a 49-year low in 2018, the fact that job openings outnumbered qualified applicants is rather troubling. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), although there were 7.3 million job openings at mid-2019, only 5.7 million people were hired.[1] What is more, the European Commission believes there could be “a shortage of around 756,000 ICT (Information and communications technology) professionals by 2020”[2], constituting a key indicator of talent mismatches.

Skills Shortage: An Overview

Most companies have skills gaps that may affect their future. They face a shortage of skilled people in STEM (science, technology, education, and math). Also lacking are people with artistic and thinking skills and soft skills.

The roots of the problem are hard to figure out and certainly, it does not arise from anywhere. Nonetheless, what is known is that organizations are not assuming their leading role facing the preparation or development of new talents properly. There is an apparent disconnection between the will of shrinking the skills gap and the time and resources needed to close it. The sole desire to close the gap is not enough, companies should consider real investment without which the shortage will grow considerably.

This way, stakeholders end up assuming one of the main roles in the identification and closure of the skills gap throughout the organization. According to Harvard Business Review: “private sector enterprises now have both the financial and the human capital to achieve much more than any government could; the largest 500 corporations in the world paid more than $700 billion in taxes, sold products and services worth over $22 trillion, controlled assets valued at more than $100 trillion, and spent more than $1.6 trillion and $400 billion in capital and R&D expenditures, respectively.”[3]

Nonetheless, forecasts tend to be pessimistic, some experts say that the situation will get even worse before it takes a more fruitful road. This is the case of Gad Levanon, chief economist, North America for The Conference Board: “The lack of growth in the working-age population coupled with the massive exodus of Baby Boomers over the next 12 years will spell trouble for businesses for at least the next decade” (DeLoatch 2018).


The skills gap is driven by a variety of factors that includes issues as specific as country’s economic specialization, the amount and pace of incorporating new technology and automation into supply chains and work environment; the availability of skills within the workforce and their proclivity to learn and adopt innovations. According to the World Economic Forum, one key driver results from “quality of foundational education, cost and quality of ICT connectivity, prevalence of jobs incorporating digital exposure, as well as opportunities for lifelong learning inside and outside the workplace.”[4]

Given the situation, the World Economic Forum calculates that circa 54% of all employees “will require significant reskilling by 2022”[5], moreover the difficulty would be the inequality among regions. Nowadays, the European Commission pointed out that approximately 37% of workers in Europe do not have basic digital skills. That leave companies unarmed when trying to successfully adopt the latest digital technologies.[6] The skills shortage may mean around 2.4 million unfilled vacancies over the next decade, resulting in a potential cost of $2.5 trillion.

What does it need to be done? Focus on Developing Talent

Employers should focus on talent development strategies that address skills gaps strategically. New technologies must be applied to make the learning process more “immersive, engaging and personalized.” Considering the former, the core should be individuals (instead of institutions) reinforcing their natural penchant for developing a broader mixture of skills.

That said, the stimulus of individuals plays an important part in the equation but it also depends on the income levels, their digital literacy skills and the access to the internet. “A Pew study looking at adult learning in the US, in both formal and non-formal contexts, portrayed a trend: 57% of adults with completed secondary schooling or less identified themselves as lifelong learners, compared with 81% who had completed tertiary education”.[7]

Then, organization is obliged to take notice of “vulnerable learners” and empower them. They are liable to suffer from work dislocation or poor training, thus they need more guidance, modular learning (that suits their busy lifestyles) or models that encourage lifelong learning experiences.

Finally, companies must position themselves as the “employer of choice” if they want to lift their chances of acquiring and keeping talent. In a competitive scene, individual stimulus is not enough, high skilled-Millenials seek work environments that make them feel proud and are aligned with their values.

Through Capabilia we facilitate the creation and delivery of digital learning programs and experiences using cutting edge technology and a personalized approach. We design end-to-end services in order to help companies, universities, and institutional clients design digital learning experiences for the global classrooms of the future.

Contact us today for more information on how we can build institutional digital learning programs and experiences.


[1] https://www.bls.gov/news.release/jolts.nr0.htm

[2] https://epale.ec.europa.eu/fr/content/e-skills-and-jobs-digital-age

[3] https://hbr.org/2017/01/stop-waiting-for-governments-to-close-the-skills-gap

[4] http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_EGW_White_Paper_Reskilling.pdf

[5] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/03/the-digital-skills-gap-is-widening-fast-heres-how-to-bridge-it/

[6] ibídem

[7] http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_EGW_White_Paper_Reskilling.pdf

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