By now, you’re probably at least vaguely aware of the current “skills gap” that is presenting a challenge to HR departments in certain industries (especially if you’re a recruiter trying to fill one of the 10 hardest-to-fill jobs), and it’s only expected to get worse within the next 5 – 10 years. Early on I asked myself, with unemployment above 8%, there are presumably enough workers to fill these open positions and close the gap, right? I researched further and discovered that, unfortunately, it wasn’t so simple.
One possible cause of this skills gap has been attributed to the recession, as training budgets and internship programs that taught skills to entry-level employees were cut and slashed. A second possible cause is the nearing mass retirement of the baby boomer generation. As a large portion of the workforce nears retirement, there are not enough people with the right skill-set to replace them, especially in certain skilled trades. Similarly, new technologies are coming to market, and corporations and start-ups alike claim they cannot fill open positions with employees fast enough.
Although the above is a simple summary of a complicated problem, here are some tips that could help build your talent pipeline and reverse the trend:
- Partner with professors at universities, local colleges, and trade schools
Ensure that relevant skills are being taught by getting inside the classroom itself. For example, when I was earning my bachelor’s degree, one particular class of mine partnered with a national newspaper for a semester. Through this partnership, the national newspaper charged us with researching college students’ reading habits and what their potential online readership behavior would be. During the project, we surveyed hundreds of students, analyzed the results, found patterns and trends within the numbers, and presented our conclusion and proposal in front of a panel of decision makers. It was a valuable learning experience, and I still draw upon that experience and similar ones gained from my time in college. Partnering with professors will get you in front of potential applicants sooner and ensure valuable skills are being taught in an educational setting. Graduates will then be better equipped to apply those skills in the real-world.
- Offer paid internships and apprenticeships
Another fantastic way to build your talent pipeline is offering paid internships or apprenticeships. By partnering with various schools that teach the skills most desired by your company, you will be able to establish a close relationship with students and begin funneling them into your pipeline before they’ve even graduated. For example, 80% of General Electric’s new hires come from its internship program. GE’s internships provide hands-on technical experience for thousands of students each year in new and innovative technologies, which makes it a no-brainer for GE to extend full-time job offers to its interns. Offering paid internships and apprenticeships will make your industry, let alone your own company, more appealing and allow a wide range of students of different backgrounds to learn desired skills.
- Improve the Onboarding Experience
A recent article on HR Bartender cited a statistic found in the 2012 Allied Workforce Mobility Survey that companies lose 25% of all new employees within a year. This number can partly be contributed to bad Onboarding experiences. In order to decrease turnover and improve retention rates, invest in adequate training and set goals or milestones for all new employees to reach within a year. Allow new hires to complete required forms electronically before their first day so they can hit the ground running. This will increase employee engagement within your company and allow new hires to become productive faster.
Whether you’re a small business looking to expand, or a corporation that is struggling to find enough employees for hard-to-fill positions, it’s important to build a pipeline of quality candidates and then keep them engaged once they’re hired. These tips not only apply to the technology, engineering, and manufacturing industries, but also to industries like business, communications, and humanities. In order to reverse the “skills gap”, future generations need ambassadors to the powers-that-be. Recruiters, I urge you to appeal to your companies’ hiring managers and executives on taking action this year to partner with schools and to improve your training and onboarding processes. Although these tips are nowhere near a cure-all, they can be a starting point that can help you stay ahead of the curve and differentiate yourself from your competitors.