Gap Is Big Concern of Employers Today
AUBURN, May 17---Two
great concerns of employers today are finding good workers and
training them. The difference between the skills needed on the job
and those possessed by the applicants, called skills-gap, is of real
concern to human resource managers and business owners looking to
hire competent employees. While employees would prefer to hire
people who are trained and ready to go to work, they are usually
willing to provide the specialized, job-specific training necessary
for those lacking such skills.
concerning today's workforce turn to employability skills, says Dr.
Jacquelyn Robinson, a community workforce development specialist
with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Finding workers who
have employability or job readiness skills that help fit into and
remain in the work environment is a real problem.
skills are those basic skills necessary for getting, keeping and
doing well on a job," says Robinson. "These are the
skills, attitudes and actions that enable workers to get along with
their fellow workers and supervisors and to make sound, critical
Unlike occupational or
technical skills, employability skills are generic in nature rather
than job specific and cut across all industry types, business sizes
and job levels.
Employers need reliable,
responsible workers who can solve problems and who have the social
skills and attitudes to work together with other workers.
"Creativity, once a
trait avoided by employers, is now prized among employers who are
trying to create the empowered, high-performance workforce needed
for competitiveness in today's marketplace. Employees with these
skills are in demand and are considered valuable human capital
assets to companies," says Robinson.
Employability skills are
generally divided into three skill sets: basic academic skills,
higher-order thinking skills and personal qualities.
Basic academic skills
include reading, writing, science, math, oral communication and
listening. These skills are essential for high job performance even
in entry-level positions. Ideally, new hires will have the ability
and will to learn. They also need the ability to listen to and read
instructions and then carry out those instructions. When asked for
information, these individuals should be able to respond both orally
and in writing, including recording and relaying information.
Reading ability includes comprehending what has been read and using
a variety of written materials, including graphs, charts, tables and
The ability to think,
reason and make sound decisions is crucial for employees desiring to
do well and advance. These higher-order skills include learning,
reasoning, creative thinking, decision making and problem solving.
An employee who can
think critically, act logically, and evaluate situations to make
decisions and solve problems, is a valuable asset to employers, says
Robinson. Employees who apply these skills in the use of technology,
instruments, tools and information systems are even more valuable.
Employers will usually try to help valued employees seek and get
more advanced training, thus widening the gap between those with
higher-order skills and those possessing only basic academic skills.
Employers also put
importance on personal skills or qualities, because in most jobs, it
is difficult to use workers effectively who lack personal skills.
Some personal skills or qualities employers look for in employees
include honesty, self-confidence, self-control, self-motivation,
sociability, adaptability, integrity, punctuality, being
well-groomed, cooperative and having good work ethics and team
good personal skills have confidence in themselves and deal with
others honestly and openly, displaying respect for themselves, their
coworkers, supervisors and clients regardless of other people's
diversity and individual differences," adds Robinson.
themselves as part of a team and are willing to work within the
culture of the group. They have a positive attitude and take the
initiative to learn new things to get the job done. Rather than
blaming others when things go wrong, they are accountable for their
actions. They also set goals and priorities in their work and
personal lives so that resources of time and money may be conserved
Employability skills are
teachable skills and may be taught in home, school and employment
settings. Allowing high school students to graduate without strong
employability skills has far-reaching implications. Employability
skills, especially development of strong personal qualities and
values, should be taught at home to children by their parents.
Parents need to be involved in goal setting and modeling behavior
for their children. Teachers, trainers and supervisors also should
set good examples for the desired workplace behavior.
"If good behavior
is reinforced and good role models are presented, people can change
for the better," says Robinson. "Employers, teachers and
parents should remember that you get the behavior you reward and
SOURCE: Dr. Jacquelyn
Robinson, Community Workforce Development Specialist, Alabama
Cooperative Extension System (334) 844-5353