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Can Mentorship Bridge the Skills Gap?

This article appeared in the October 2018 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.

One of the biggest stories coming out of the Great Recession that continues to plague businesses is the lack of qualified job applicants for many semi- to highly skilled positions in a variety of industries. The skills gap has been talked about by business leaders, politicians and economists for several years, and yet the reality of jobs going unfilled is still a major factor in the economic recovery. But could there be a solution to this problem that is going unnoticed and underutilized?

What’s Causing the Gap?

While there is consensus among most experts that there is a skills gap in the job market, there are varying beliefs on the cause for this gap.

A survey by TEKsystems of IT professionals and leaders found a disconnect between their reasons for jobs currently being open and individuals not applying. Leaders in IT believe that a lack of skills is the central reason behind the gap, while professionals in the industry believe the problem has more to do with employers expecting too much in their job descriptions.

Another report by CareerBuilder found that employers (55 percent) and job seekers (37 percent) agree that education gaps in particular areas are the leading cause for the skills gap. However, job seekers believe that gaps in expectations surrounding wages as well as job requirements that are above entry level requirements play a large a role in unfilled jobs.

Could Mentorships be the Answer?

For years, apprenticeships played a significant role in training the next generation of workers. In the last few decades, the changing dynamics of the workplace have dramatically slowed this practice of teaching.

Today, mentorships are often thought of as a relationship between a younger and more experienced professional that helps the young professional develop and learn more about their industry. But what if businesses and job seekers thought of mentorships as a way to train new employees who may not have the specific skills the employer is looking for, but have the work ethic and desire to learn?

Some business leaders may be hesitant to invest in educating employees who have the potential to leave and take this valuable training to another business or possibly even a competitor. However, the CareerBuilder report goes on to say that “An overwhelming 92 percent of employees become more loyal to a company that invests in training them, adding that they are more likely to stay at a company that values them in this way.”

There is no question that the responsibility to end the skills gap falls on employees and employers alike. As they enter the hiring process, job candidates should be able to clearly show that they have a desire to learn and are willing to spend time receiving training from the best people in the business so they can help the company be successful. Leaders in businesses should begin to develop programs utilizing their best employees to train new hires on the skills they’ll need to be successful.

As the economy continues to recover and businesses continue to look for ways to fill their unfilled job openings, mentorships should play a larger role in helping new employees be effective additions to the company. The skills gap is a challenge that can be overcome by employers and job seekers so long as both are willing to spend time teaching and learning.


About the Author

John KeuningJohn Keuning is director of manufacturing excellence for Express Employment Professionals. He may be reached at 616-281-0611 or john.keuning@expresspros.com. Visit online: www.expresspros.com/grandrapidsmi.

This article appeared in the October 2018 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.

One of the biggest stories coming out of the Great Recession that continues to plague businesses is the lack of qualified job applicants for many semi- to highly skilled positions in a variety of industries. The skills gap has been talked about by business leaders, politicians and economists for several years, and yet the reality of jobs going unfilled is still a major factor in the economic recovery. But could there be a solution to this problem that is going unnoticed and underutilized?

What’s Causing the Gap?

While there is consensus among most experts that there is a skills gap in the job market, there are varying beliefs on the cause for this gap.

A survey by TEKsystems of IT professionals and leaders found a disconnect between their reasons for jobs currently being open and individuals not applying. Leaders in IT believe that a lack of skills is the central reason behind the gap, while professionals in the industry believe the problem has more to do with employers expecting too much in their job descriptions.

Another report by CareerBuilder found that employers (55 percent) and job seekers (37 percent) agree that education gaps in particular areas are the leading cause for the skills gap. However, job seekers believe that gaps in expectations surrounding wages as well as job requirements that are above entry level requirements play a large a role in unfilled jobs.

Could Mentorships be the Answer?

For years, apprenticeships played a significant role in training the next generation of workers. In the last few decades, the changing dynamics of the workplace have dramatically slowed this practice of teaching.

Today, mentorships are often thought of as a relationship between a younger and more experienced professional that helps the young professional develop and learn more about their industry. But what if businesses and job seekers thought of mentorships as a way to train new employees who may not have the specific skills the employer is looking for, but have the work ethic and desire to learn?

Some business leaders may be hesitant to invest in educating employees who have the potential to leave and take this valuable training to another business or possibly even a competitor. However, the CareerBuilder report goes on to say that “An overwhelming 92 percent of employees become more loyal to a company that invests in training them, adding that they are more likely to stay at a company that values them in this way.”

There is no question that the responsibility to end the skills gap falls on employees and employers alike. As they enter the hiring process, job candidates should be able to clearly show that they have a desire to learn and are willing to spend time receiving training from the best people in the business so they can help the company be successful. Leaders in businesses should begin to develop programs utilizing their best employees to train new hires on the skills they’ll need to be successful.

As the economy continues to recover and businesses continue to look for ways to fill their unfilled job openings, mentorships should play a larger role in helping new employees be effective additions to the company. The skills gap is a challenge that can be overcome by employers and job seekers so long as both are willing to spend time teaching and learning.


About the Author

John KeuningJohn Keuning is director of manufacturing excellence for Express Employment Professionals. He may be reached at 616-281-0611 or john.keuning@expresspros.com. Visit online: www.expresspros.com/grandrapidsmi.
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