Experts largely agree: the U.S. is facing some serious skills gaps. Some argue that it’s up to colleges and universities to churn out job-ready graduates, while others believe that employees need to be in charge of their own career development. The truth is that when there are skill gaps, it doesn't matter who is responsible —employers end up feeling the pain.
It’s time for workforce training programs
During the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) President and CEO Henry G. "Hank" Jackson emphasized that employers must take responsibility for the skills gap by reinvesting in the workforce through strategic training programs. Other leaders in the political and business community agreed wholeheartedly.
Where the WIOA fits into the picture
When President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA) into being, his vision was to connect more people with jobs, through a workforce development program partnering with employers. There have been several challenges with this approach.
The first issue is that agencies operating under government funding are competing instead of collaborating. Second, many employers do not realize the financial and tax incentives they can obtain as a result of providing on-the-job training and employment opportunities through this program. The WIOA typically provides services to displaced and unemployed workers, who fall into low skill areas and may not have the ability to take on advanced STEM careers that are most desperate for candidates.
Employers do not see the value of investing in training programs if the cost outweighs the benefits. The WIOA has been slow to adopt by employers due to lack of education about the benefits, and many have faced disorganized processes that take up too much of their time. Employers are also not keen to work with non-profit organizations or other competing firms in their industry, which the WIOA can require.
It’s no wonder that many companies remain focused on recruitment rather than training. But it’s a dead-end road for many.
What’s the solution for skills shortages?
The best course of action for employers is to use a blended approach to recruitment and training in order to deal with the challenges of skill shortages. Every job type should be carefully studied to determine the skills that make employees successful. An employer can work with an outside vendor, such as a temporary recruitment firm or a workforce development consultant to conduct an objective review through observation and employee surveys.
Then, each company needs to catalog the skillsets that are primary for career success, given the parameters of the organization itself. These may be a combination of soft skills, like time management and interpersonal communication, as well as technical skills, such as use of a particular software or method of producing work.
Working carefully with a workforce development consultant, the company needs to determine how to best deliver training content to employees. Hands on training conducted by in-house staff is always possible, but it also pulls them away from their own tasks. Oftentimes, an outside employee training firm can provide more efficient training onsite.
Any training that can take place using e-learning should be carefully explored too. This can be developed in-house or through an outside learning management firm. There are many white-label workforce training courses already available, so that can be a cost effective option to consider rather than developing custom training.
All training should be a combination of instructor-led classroom experiences, observation hands-on learning, and some on-demand e-learning modules. Using these methods, companies can recruit candidates for their learning potential, onboard and train them quickly for key positions, and keep supporting their learning experience months and even years on the job.
When employers take responsibility for the career development of their employees, current and future, they can play a part in closing the biggest skills gaps.