Despite a 5.5 % national unemployment rate which translates to nearly 8.5 million people, approximately 5 million jobs remain unfilled, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Why are these jobs still open? It’s not a shortage of workers, but a shortage of skilled workers.
This is according to many experts who have pointed to a “skills gap” conundrum in the US and worldwide. Of 500 executives recently surveyed by Adecco, a multinational human resource consulting company, 92% agreed that a job skills deficit exists. CNBC.com quoted Janette Marx, a senior executive at Adecco Staffing US: “Many of them are saying they are getting applicants who aren’t prepared for the workplace.” And according to The Conference Board, this situation is reported by the majority of employers regardless of industry.
The costs to the economy are significant. The Manufacturing Institute estimates that the inability to fill 600,000 jobs means a loss of $67.8 billion in exports, $47.4 billion in foreign investment, and $8.5 billion in R&D. Employee retention is affected too: the financial services industry, for one, suffers from an astonishing 87% turnover rate for new hires.
Whose Training Responsibility Is It Anyway?
To make things worse, there’s a deep disconnect between employers and educators on this subject. A recent Gallup Poll suggested that only 11% of employers “strongly agree” that graduates have the skills necessary for workplace success. On the other side of the fence, an Inside Higher Education survey of university academic officers indicated that 96% of them believe that schools are in fact adequately preparing students to enter business.
Clearly there’s a need for more responsive solutions. Some leading companies are starting to help bridge the gap, partnering with colleges and universities to figure out a new way forward.
One such model, launched last year, is the College Employer Collaborative (CEC). A Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action, it innovatively links the business, non-profit, and academic realms. The CEC is enabling community college students to learn in-demand skills directly from employers. The goal is to strengthen the talent pipeline, and to give businesses a lower-cost way to deliver basic skills training to the pre-employment pool.
The CEC’s partnership was forged by CorpU, a virtual executive education company, and Jobs for the Future (JFF), an organization connecting workforce development efforts with education systems. “We’ve been seeing frustration on both sides, from the employers who have open positions that need to be filled as well as from the students who graduate and expect to land a job,” commented JFF’s Program Director Mary Wright. “If Jobs for the Future can engage community colleges and CorpU can bring employers together, together we can make sure that students learn the skills they need.”
Alan Todd, CEO of CorpU, commented that his company is applying its “deep understanding of the needs of top corporations”, and using its proprietary technology, to create social-collaborative online courses tailored for the program.
There’s been a robust response from both industry and academia. On board are 16 companies including heavy-hitters like American Express, AT&T, Boeing, Cisco Systems, eBay, Farmers Insurance, Lockheed Martin, MasterCard, SAP, and Xerox. There are about seven participating community colleges nationwide.
The students will gain credentialing as well as skills: participating community colleges will grant Employer Created Credentials (ECC) for courses of study that employers have identified as under-developed and in high demand for new hires. “The benefits of the Collaborative will pay dividends to students throughout their careers,” noted Todd.
“What is so encouraging is the enthusiastic support we’ve received from the community colleges and nationally-known employers for what is a game-changing strategy,” Wright said.