You can’t swing a cat around the HR blogosphere, the workplace related trade mags or online sites, and even the mainstream business press without reading about the so-called ‘skills gap’; i.e. the stated or declared inability of many firms across numerous (and often technical) industries to locate, recruit, and hire the talent they need for at least some of their open positions.
While some will decry the ‘skills gap’ as a consequence of the widespread failure at a more fundamental and institutional level amongst, (variably), educational systems, societal pressures, governmental missteps, and large corporations to adequately assess, plan, and develop the skills that the modern and changing economy demands; others attempt to explain the ‘skills gap’ more simply, and as more a fabrication or at least a demonstration of a lack of vision on the part of individual organizations. To these critics, (Wharton’s Peter Cappelli probably the most prominent), the ‘skills gap’ perpetuates due to firms’ inability to think creatively, to adapt jobs and roles to existing talent profiles, and the general unwillingness to actually invest in people, helping them to improve their skills, (and certainly their marketability), preferring to continue to search for the often elusive person that has already done the exact same job, using the same tools, and in the same industry that they need.
Whichever side you come down on as to the larger causes and drivers in the ‘skills gap’ debate, ultimately, as an HR and Talent professional, the theoretical discussion probably matters less to your success than the actual and practical steps you take when, at a micro-level, you find yourself bucking up against the manifestation of a real or otherwise ‘skills gap’ in your world – that key position that you just can’t fill, or when you stare down a thin or empty pipeline of potential prospects to replace the dozen or so old-timer and highly specialized engineers about to head to retirement in the next few years, perhaps in a discipline that isn’t ‘hot’ for new graduates.
While a 500 word blog post can’t possibly successfully close the ‘skills gap’ debate, (or likely help you solve your ‘hard-to-fill’ position), it can challenge you to think about the problem perhaps in a new way, and offer up a reference to an interesting approach pulled from the world of digital marketing.
Check this post from digital marketers eConsultancy, titled ‘The class of 2012: Are businesses doing enough to find digital talent?’, a look at an interesting, innovative, and so-far successful program, a new graduate Bootcamp of sorts, installed to help develop some new skills in recent graduates, help connect them to potential opportunities in the industry that they might not have ever found on their own, and finally, and perhaps most importantly, raise awareness and interest in a fields and disciplines that companies have been finding, you guessed, as having a ‘skills gap.’
The entire piece is worth reading, but the big takeaway conclusion from the Bootcamp that I think has true and practical relevance to every HR and Talent pro is this one:
“The skills the industry values are available in bucket loads amongst the class of 2012, but it’s not enough to expect them to find their way to you. If organisations are looking for the best and brightest emerging talent they need to invest in raising awareness of the industry to students at all levels, and creatively facilitate entry into work through training, internships and recruiting with an eye on potential.”
And to me, that’s the ‘skills gap’ in a nutshell. Think about the overall source of talent that is reasonably available to you, be they recent grads, experienced local professionals, competitors staff you can realistically poach, or whatever contingent or contract talent you can source. Even if you find it hard to believe, and if the existence of several persistent hard-to-fill jobs on your desk seem to bear it out, it still seems likely with the application of some creative thinking, investment, and, indeed, belief, The skills (your) industry values are available in bucket loads.
You just have to be willing to get past the ‘skills gap’ (or to quit hiding behind it) to be able to find the way to them. If you can’t, then perhaps the next ‘skills gap’ problem your CEO will want to talk about will be the one in HR and Recruiting.