Is it endangering U.S. competitiveness?
Even before the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 4.1 percent last year, many companies were reporting a troublesome gap between the skills they needed to run and expand their businesses and the qualifications of job candidates. The disconnect is especially acute in the fields of health care, computer technology and manufacturing, but it exists in a wide variety of industries. Economists warn that a failure to close the gap could have consequences for U.S. competitiveness and economic growth. Some experts argue that these hiring difficulties have been exaggerated and that, where shortages do exist, the lack of skilled applicants is just one of many factors that are responsible. At the same time, policymakers are proposing initiatives that include more apprenticeship programs and a better alignment between educational curriculums and workforce needs.
Among the key takeaways:
The skills gap costs individual companies an average of $800,000 annually in lost business and productivity, one survey found.
In addition to specific training gaps, some employers report that applicants lack “soft skills” such as communications and problem-solving capabilities.
Some economists argue that employers need to revive or strengthen training programs and review their compensation rates to close the skills gap.
Resources for Further Study
“Building America’s Skilled Technical Workforce,” National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine/National Academies Press, 2017. A research group explores the best way to give middle-skill employees the training they need.
Alper, Patty, “Teach to Work: How a Mentor, a Mentee, and a Project Can Close the Skills Gap in America,” Routledge, 2017. A marketing consultant and member of the White House initiative on how to build mentorship in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) looks at how schools and business can work together.
Hora, Matthew T., “Beyond the Skills Gap: Preparing College Students for Life and Work,” Harvard Education Press, 2016. A University of Wisconsin professor of adult teaching and learning examines the skills gap and the responsibility of business and educators to ready students for the work world.
Newman, Katherine S., and Hella Winston, “Reskilling America: Learning to Labor in the Twenty-First Century,” Metropolitan Books, 2016. An award-winning author (Newman) and a sociologist (Winston) call for the United States to re-energize its vocational training system.
Belkin, Douglas, “Why an Honors Student Wants to Skip College and Go to Trade School,” The Wall Street Journal, March 5, 2018, http://tinyurl.com/
Freifeld, Lorri, “Bridging the Skills Gap,” Training, accessed April 11, 2018, http://tinyurl.com/
Gewertz, Catherine, “Is There Really a ‘Skills Gap’?” Education Week, July 18, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/
Goldman, Jeremy, “Nearly Half of Companies Say They Don’t Have the Digital Skills They Need,” Harvard Business Review, July 28, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/
Streur, John, and George Serafeim, “Stop Waiting for Governments to Close the Skills Gap,” Harvard Business Review, Jan. 11, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/
Weaver, Andrew, “The Myth of the Skills Gap,” MIT Technology Review, Aug. 25, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/
Reports and Studies
“2017 Skills Gap Report,” Udemy, March 11, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/
“Investing in America’s data science and analytics talent,” PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Business-Higher Education Forum, April 2017, http://tinyurl.com/
Cappelli, Peter, “Skill Gaps, Skill Shortages and Skill Mismatches: Evidence for the US,” National Bureau of Economic Research, August 2014, http://tinyurl.com/
Carnevale, Anthony P., Jeff Strohl and Neil Ridley, “Good Jobs That Pay Without a BA: A State-by-State Analysis,” Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce, Nov. 13, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/
Restuccia, Dan, “Different Skills, Different Gaps: Measuring & Closing the Skills Gap,” Burning Glass Technologies/U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, March 2018, http://tinyurl.com/
Stephens, Rachael, “Mind the Gap: The State of Skills in the U.S.,” Third Way, July 9, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/
Weaver, Andrew, and Paul Osterman, “Skill Demands and Mismatches in U.S. Manufacturing,” ILR Review, March 2017, http://tinyurl.com/
The Next Step
Meyrick, Julian, “In Plain Sight: Why Military Veterans Are a Great Fit for Cybersecurity Careers,” SecurityIntelligence, April 5, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/
Rayome, Alison DeNisco, “72% of cybersecurity pros say hiring video gamers could fix the IT skills gap,” TechRepublic, April 3, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/
Wolff, Josephine, “Gamers Are Not the Answer to the Shortage of Cybersecurity Workers,” Slate, April 5, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/
Briggs, Helen, “Breaking the mould in a male-dominated workplace,” BBC News, March 18, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/
Kaser, Rachel, “This company aims to solve coder gender gap by getting girls hooked early,” The Next Web, April 6, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/
Sastre, Maria, “We need more women in STEM — Aviation may be the key,” The Hill, April 5, 2018, https://tinyurl.com/
Association for Talent Development
1640 King St., Box 1443, Alexandria, VA 22313
International association for workforce/management training.
Bureau of Labor Statistics - Division of Information and Marketing Services
2 Massachusetts Ave., N.E., Room 2850, Washington, DC 20212
Source of government data on employment, occupational outlook, jobless estimates and other economic/workforce data.
Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce
3300 Whitehaven St., N.W., Suite 3200, Washington, DC 20007
An independent research and policy institute that studies the link between education, career qualifications and workforce demands.
30 S. Meridian St., Suite 700, Indianapolis, IN 46204
An independent foundation committed to making opportunities after high school available to everyone.
The Manufacturing Institute
733 10th St., N.W., Suite 700, Washington, DC, 20001
Association that works to change the image of manufacturing and attract workers to the industry.
National Association of Colleges and Employers
62 Highland Ave., Bethlehem, PA 18017
Organization that connects college career-service professionals, recruiters and businesses and provides employment information and career and market trends.
National Center on Education and the Economy
2121 K St., N.W., Suite 700, Washington, DC 20037
Policy group focused on workforce skills and educational improvement.
STEM Education Coalition
777 6th St., N.W., Suite 510, Washington, DC 20001
Policy organization dedicated to improving the way students learn about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to promote American competitiveness.