Can Education Impact the Skills Gap?

By Emily Kuhn, Realityworks Marketing Automation Specialist

In an August 19th article published in Bloomberg Business Week, it was reported that there are currently 4.7 million job openings in the US, more so in more than a decade. However, there are 9.7 million people currently looking for work. The article author, rightly so, enquires: how can there be so many unemployed people in the face of so many job openings?

Furthermore, could early education in career areas make a difference?  

One perceived reason for the skills gap is that job-seekers do not have the science, technology, math and engineering (STEM) skills needed to fill in-demand jobs.

The disparity between the skills job-seekers currently have and the skills employers need to fill open positions is what’s known as the “skills gap.” A variety of factors are thought to be contributing to this gap; depending on who you ask, you might hear any of the following:

  • Employers are not offering competitive wages, especially for in-demand jobs.
  • Employers are not providing necessary on-the-job training.
  • Job-seekers lack the soft skills (like time management abilities, interpersonal communication and a positive attitude) that employers need to succeed.
  • Job-seekers do not have the science, technology, math and engineering (STEM) skills needed to fill in-demand jobs such as skilled trade workers, accounting and finance professionals, IT staff and engineers.

Early education in career areas could indeed make a difference in the skills gap, and that education is being provided in CTE programs. By combining academics with career-focused training, CTE programs provide students with both academic skills (including that in-demand STEM knowledge) and career-specific skills. This combination leaves them ready to succeed whether they choose to continue their education or enter the workforce.

Realityworks President Timm Boettcher recently stated the following in an EdNET Insight newsletter:

Although CTE has evolved to encompass rigorous academics, advanced technology, and postsecondary education and career pathways, improved alignment between the educational system and industry is needed. By connecting and communicating with local and regional industry representatives, education officials can take the first step in establishing the engaging CTE programs that will not only help those U.S. employers fill qualified positions but also ensure the strength of our nation’s workforce, global competitiveness, and economic health.

A report released earlier this year from CareerBuilder explores the perceptions and behaviors surrounding the skills gap. We recommend exploring it, and the website of the Industry Workforce Needs Council, to learn more about the skills gap and how education and training – like that of career and technical (CTE) education programs – can address it.

How do you think education can impact the skills gap? Share your thoughts in the comments!