In-Demand Skills are Currency in the World of Work

It’s time to develop skills workers need to secure jobs companies desperately want to fill

By Teresa Carroll, EVP; President, Global Talent Solutions; & GM, Sales/Marketing/Human Resources

A topic I am passionate about is rightfully getting some attention – addressing the skills gap in today’s labor market.

I recently spoke on a panel about reskilling and upskilling at Bullhorn’s annual Engage conference in Boston. It is great that workforce solutions firms like Kelly and the others represented on the panel are experimenting with creative solutions to the skills gap, but let’s explore why progressive companies everywhere should consider reskilling and upskilling as part of their larger talent strategy.

Dysfunction Currently Sits Between Job Seekers and Market Demand

We all share a big problem. The global labor market is dysfunctional.

Companies have plentiful vacancies for high-quality jobs in technology, healthcare, skilled trades and many more.

So just hire more people, right?

Not so fast.

There aren’t enough workers to fill these job openings, particularly as the Baby Boomer generation retires. And equally or perhaps even more troubling, today’s job seekers don’t have the specialized skills to do the work companies need to thrive and grow. American employers are currently unable to fill an estimated 6.7 million open jobs*.

Skills Bridge the Gap

The best remedy for the dysfunction that exists between job seekers and market demand is skill development: relevant skills for those who are new to the workforce, higher-value skills for existing workers, and new skills for workers whose jobs will change or evolve with inevitable shifts in the world of work.

At Kelly, we can speak first-hand to the power of skill development because we’ve been doing it for more than seven decades. Here are a few examples:

  • Shortly after Kelly was founded in 1946, we trained people to use typewriters and calculating machines called comptometers to prepare them for temporary office work assignments.
  • In the late 1990s, we prepared workers to use a breakthrough new software suite so they were ready for jobs that required these skills as soon as the product launched into the market.
  • In our KellyConnect remote call center programs, we train and upskill customer service employees via virtual classrooms and leadership programs.
  • Last year, Kelly invested in Kenzie Academy, an accelerated training program that prepares students for in-demand tech careers, such as app development.

Helping people develop in-demand skills benefits companies tremendously and simultaneously enriches workers’ lives by connecting them with meaningful work.

The Future Belongs to Forward-thinking Companies and Motivated Workers

So how do we skill, upskill and reskill workers to cure the ailments of our labor market? We need to consider a variety of creative ways to bridge the skills gap.

At Kelly, we counsel our clients to consider three options:

  1. Buy – Hire talent that has been trained in high-demand skills at academies, boot camps and other training programs. If your hiring criteria still require all candidates for all jobs to have four-year degrees, it’s time to ditch the script.
  2. Build – Take a second look at your jobs, job design and hiring criteria. You may have great talent under your own roof that could be prepared for open positions if you built some intense training in certain technical skills (for example, training in customer relationship management software for sales positions). Building talent through this type of “last-mile” training may be an easier solution than trying to find talent with those skills in the labor market.
  3. Borrow – Partner with staffing or talent agencies that can deliver already trained talent for a minimal price differential.

Which option should companies choose? In my opinion – all of the above. While the skills gap is a pervasive problem we all face, we don’t have all the answers yet. Dynamic companies will explore as many options as possible. Meanwhile, workers who want to secure a lengthy and successful career will subscribe to a mindset of lifelong learning that is not necessarily tied to traditional higher education.

Developing more in-demand skills is what’s next in today’s world of work. It’s time we all invest in this new currency.