Organizations Should Invest in Training to Fill Skills Gaps

two woman in a meeting
Topic(s): training
Publication: Harvard Business Review (2012)
Article: Who can fix the “middle-skills” gap?
Authors: T. Kochan, D. Finegold, P. Osterman
Reviewed by: Susan Rosengarten

Shortages of qualified applicants for “middle skills jobs” (jobs that require postsecondary technical training and education) are a growing problem in the US. Some companies have even resorted to contracting their work abroad – a solution with many logistical downsides. What’s the best fix to this predicament? Instead of waiting for candidates with the appropriate skills to come along, organizations can develop training programs to fill this “middle skills gap.” Unfortunately many organizations hesitate to invest in such training. Why invest in training if it makes your employees more attractive to other firms? Your employees may decide to jump ship to the competitor, taking the skills you’ve taught them and the valuable human capital they’ve acquired.

Authors (Kochan, Finegold, & Osterman, 2012) have a couple of suggestions for employers tackling this difficult situation. For starters, employers and unions in the same regions and industries should band together and combine forces to train and produce top candidates. Also, a shift in the traditional approach to education must be made. Lessons should be taken from the classroom to the boardroom. Students need simulated work situations and opportunities like internships and cooperative degree programs, or “co-ops,” which allow them hands-on experience and real world application of the concepts they learn in class. Employers should partner with universities and institutions of higher education to not only show students what a career in these fields and at their firm would look like, but also to encourage these student to visualize this as their own future.