The Current Skills Gap and How To Be More Prepared for a Career

Jan 28, 2014
  |  by Jennifer Cook

The gap between the skills that college grads possess and the skills needed before they enter the workforce is a common topic of interest because it’s affecting both companies and individuals in the job search process. Students are completing college with degrees, but lack many of the skills necessary to succeed in the workplace.

Effects of the Gap

Manpower conducted a survey in 2012 and found that 49 percent of employers were struggling to fill jobs because applicants lacked the skills to fulfill the necessary responsibilities. Many people are still unemployed as an after-effect of the recession. However, this information indicates that there are jobs available for those looking for employment. A 2013 article published by USA Today references a study conducted by McKinsey & Co. that found employers are disappointed by the lack of skills displayed by graduates, and that one in three graduates feel that college did not prepare them for a career.

How Employers are Closing the Gap

Employers take the lack of practical skills they are seeing in new graduates very seriously. They are seeking people who will thrive in their company and who have the skills to successfully fulfill their position. Many companies are taking matters into their own hands and hold rigorous training programs when a new hire begins. They will potentially train new employees upwards of a month to adequately prepare them for their new role.

Businesses host training programs throughout the year for their staff, send employees to seminars and conferences, and provide continuous information that can keep their staff up-to-date and knowledgeable in their respective jobs.

Many companies offer tuition reimbursement programs that are highly advantageous to their employees.  Employers recognize the benefit of higher education and are in need of individuals who possess advanced degrees.  Consequently, companies are often willing to cover the cost of university programs for their employees.  As a rule, individuals who have worked for the same employer for a designated period of time are eligible to participate in these programs.  Furthermore, many companies have entered into agreements with specific universities designed to offer discounted tuition rates, fee waivers, and additional compensation. 

How Graduates can be Prepared

Diversify coursework – Students who concentrate their studies on one narrow subject may not have a well-rounded knowledge base that is necessary for many of today’s jobs.  New employees will need to be familiar with topics not just related to their major, but also a variety of other areas. This can be useful in many situations that may occur in the workplace. Some examples might be carrying on an interesting conversation with a client or being asked to temporarily assume someone else’s responsibilities. Employers value someone who is prepared for anything and can handle multiple tasks.

Do an Internship – Interning, as a student, is highly valuable when preparing for a career after college. Employers will value the experience.  Often times, an internship allows for a student to get the proverbial foot in the door, leading to a permanent position.

Volunteer – Volunteering can give individuals an entirely new perspective on a job and what it means to earn a living. It can develop skills that diversify a person’s knowledge base and make them much more valuable to an employer.

Seek Training Opportunities – Students should take every opportunity available to attend conferences and trainings. Conferences will often give discounts or free admission to students. These experiences offer an array of lessons that aren’t typically taught in a classroom environment. Additionally, students can network and get information and advice from people who are already established in the industry.

There are many things that both employers and future employees can do to close the skills gap. The key is to take advantage of learning opportunities. Look for an employer who is willing to invest in their employees. Those who are always willing to learn and develop new skills will never fall behind in the workforce.


Author bio: Jennifer Cook writes about online education, learning trends and student life for Strayer.edu. She loves it when teachers connect with students online, and she’s scrubbed her social profiles clean, just in case Big Brother is watching.

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