We've been hearing about the skills gap for years. The problem rose to the national level in 2015 when the Obama administration held a summit on how a shortage of cybersecurity professionals could hurt consumer protections. Since then, many industries have felt the skills gap as they struggle to fill positions.
"In the New Jersey market we've seen a persistent skills gap, especially with application developers," says Karina Rigano, Division Director for Beacon Hill's Technologies Division in Parsippany. "This makes managing expectations all the more essential – in a tight market, employers need to prioritize the skills and qualities they need, as well as the speed with which they need the position filled."
In 2019, the gap has yet to be bridged, and it has some hiring leaders worried. The path forward is becoming a little clearer, however, as more leaders understand how to address key talent sourcing challenges.
HR is already feeling the skills gap
According to new research from the Society for Human Resource Management, 75 percent of HR professionals believe there is a shortage of skilled workers. Of that group, 83 percent said they have noticed a decline in the quality of job applicants. Furthermore, 52 percent of survey respondents reported that the problems caused by the skills gap have grown worse since 2016.
Lack of skills isn't the only reason companies are struggling to recruit. At the beginning of 2019, the U.S. economy was as close to full employment as it has been in over 40 years, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That means competition for top talent is strong among employers.
Tech skills needed outside the tech industry
Since the turn of the millennium, the demand for tech skills in non-tech industries has grown. As more business functions become digital in nature, companies require professionals with advanced skills and experience to solve ever more complex challenges.
For example, one of the most surprising findings of a recent study conducted by the UK's National Farm Research Unit was that 89 percent of Scottish farmers plan to recruit tech-competent staff. After all, why train a dog to herd sheep, if a drone can do it with more precision?
This example illustrates why the demand for tech skills is growing so rapidly - there's really no such thing as a non-tech industry anymore. Everyone's looking for workers with digital skills.
Cybersecurity skill shortage is significant
Though identified on a national stage in 2015, the cybersecurity skills shortage hasn't improved much since then. In fact, research from McAfee found that the global cost of cybercrime increased from $500 billion to $600 billion between 2014 and 2016.
As noted above, more industries are becoming digitized, and that means there are more opportunities for cybercriminals. To use the previous example, you can hack a drone, but not a border collie. Essentially, more and more companies will need cybersecurity professionals as time goes on, but there is much doubt about the availability of that talent.
There's also a shortage of soft skills
Beyond technical skills, employers also seem to be struggling to find professionals who possess important soft skills, such as interpersonal communication and critical thinking.
Speaking with CNBC, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner noted that the need for soft skills currently outpaces the need for technical skills.
"Some people may not realize that interpersonal skills is where we're seeing the biggest imbalance," Weiner said. "Communications is the No. 1 skills gap."
Compared with technical abilities, these types of skills may be easier to train for, as long as employers have a plan in place. This is one area where HR can make a meaningful impact on operations by providing communications training. Having access to e-learning platforms can help HR stakeholders to establish programs for teaching critical soft skills to new hires as well as veteran workers who may need a refresher.
Finding talented professionals with the experience your company needs is a complicated challenge. Learn more about how the expert recruiters at Beacon Hill Staffing Group can help.
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