We’ve been talking about the skills gap for a little while now, and it’s clear that the gap isn’t closing any time soon. Some of the industries hit the hardest by the skills gap include manufacturing, technology, engineering, and healthcare.
With approximately 7.2 million unemployed individuals in the U.S., you’ve probably heard people talking about how to solve the skills gap. They say things like, “Companies should just fill their open positions with some of the millions of job-seekers in need of employment.”
In theory, this sounds like a great solution, but the problem isn’t in the number of people available. It’s in the skills. That’s why companies like Apple, Google, and JPMorgan are doing what they can to try and close the skills gap as much as humanly possible.
I recently sat down with Cristina Goldt, Workday’s vice president of HCM roducts, to discuss her thoughts on the skills gap. Here’s a look at our conversation:
Q: The skills gap is obviously an issue, especially with STEM jobs. What do you think could minimize or solve the skills gap problem?
A: Organizations need to understand where the skills gap is impacting their operations. They have to constantly think of what positions they need to fill next, and stay ahead of the demand for employees with certain skills as much as possible. This mean developing a forward-thinking strategy and planning early to meet future needs.
Q: There are a lot of companies and programs to train current employees or job-seekers with skills that are scarce. Do you think this will help solve the problem, or is it just for show of support?
A: This will help, but I believe we also need to start training people before they join the workforce to address this issue. I think one area that organizations are underutilizing is youth programs. It’s important to encourage and provide opportunities our youth, investing in developing their passions toward areas affected by the skills gap, such as STEM.
At Workday, we have partnered with organizations including Girls Who Code, whose mission is to close the gender gap in technology. This past summer we provided instruction to 20 high school girls on web and mobile development and design, and helped them develop applications addressing social issues that are meaningful to them.
We can’t turn everyone into data scientists, but by teaching young students the necessary skills that are in demand, I believe that this will enable them to become qualified candidates for highly-skilled positions when they are ready to enter the workforce.
Q: Many people complain that if there’s such a skills shortage in the U.S., why not hire the millions of unemployed and train them instead of sponsoring H1B’s from overseas. Although it sounds like a great idea, it’s clear that it’s not that easy. Do you think limiting sponsorship is hurting the skills gap even more? How do you feel about it?
A: This goes back to organizations truly understanding how the gap is impacting their operations. As technology evolves we can only guarantee more change, and it’s important that organizations develop a plan to minimize the skills gap based on what will work for their own culture and employee needs.
As more and more companies continue to invest time and money into training programs for critical skills, it will be interesting to see how this will have a long-term impact on the promotion of highly-skilled positions throughout the U.S.