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Insider secrets on filling skills gap positions

Jul 30, 2014

When we talk about filling a gap, it usually means that something needs fixing or correcting. It could refer to the cracks in a door or window letting the hot summer air inside. Perhaps it requires braces to close the space between two front teeth. Or for business, it requires an analysis to determine how to get from where you are to where you want to be. So what does it mean for employment and finding talent?

Thirteen million people are looking for work while three million jobs go unfilled. Undoubtedly most of us are at least aware of the discussion around the “jobs skills gap”—the space between the skill set of prospective workers and those a company requires to perform the job—as to what degree it is affecting U.S. business and even if it really exists. It certainly exists in skilled trades, such as manufacturing and construction, and the gap seems to be widening.

Since the discussion is at such a macro level, we thought we would ask a couple of our operations managers to share their experiences in regards to filling skills gap positions, shedding light on the pain points and offering solutions. Here is what they had to share…

Pinpointing which positions take longer to fill allows companies to plan ahead and implement solutions, such as using temporary staffing, to keep key functions covered until the right candidate is found. According to Marc Cochran, regional manager of Employbridge's Charlotte branch, the skills gap comes into play for the positions where training is required before placement of the professional, such as welders, CNC machinists and bilingual call center reps. “I also think it indirectly impacts the HR mindset and how people recruit for those jobs,” he says. “Because the skills gap plays a role in how long a position is open, I think hiring managers have grown more comfortable not following through with a sense of urgency to capitalize on a candidate.”

At the same time, business leaders often have high or unrealistic expectations. Tanya Carter, Greenville branch manager, says, “The client wants previous on-the-job experience, about two to three years, but yet they rarely want to pay the market rate for these candidates.” There is a mismatch of how companies handle skills gap recruiting and employment branding, leaving positions unfilled and candidates not understanding how to market themselves to land the job. As a result, Marc adds, “Candidates are often discouraged, don’t represent themselves well early in the process, and in the end are turned down.”

In reality, the actual skills needed probably play a smaller role than advertised. So although there is a differential between what the talent pool has to offer and what the client is looking for, smart companies are willing to train motivated high-potential people. Companies can look for ways to leverage on-the-job training, apprenticeships, and temporary-to-hire opportunities to groom employees. Hiring managers can segment out job functions based on priority and find candidates who can do some of the job, rather than search for that “holy grail” candidate who can presumably perform 100 percent of the tasks. They don’t generally exist.

Cait Murphy wrote a great piece for Inc. about the issue of finding talent for specific jobs and holds companies to task saying, “… to the extent that your business is having problems, to a large degree, the solutions are in your hands. Specifically: Start training programs, pay competitive wages, and work with governments and community colleges.” By reframing our mindset and hiring and training those with the capacity to learn the skills we need, we will start to correct this particular gap (orthodontics not required).

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