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Companies Report Difficulty in Finding Qualified Employees

October 9, 2009
Related Topics: Future Workplace, Latest News
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Companies say they are having trouble finding qualified workers and add that skill deficiencies of current employees are dragging down productivity, according to a report by a major business organization.

Even as they come up empty in their search for talent, employers anticipate that most of their future job openings will require more education and training, says the study sponsored by the Business Roundtable, a Washington-based association of chief executives of large companies.

Nearly two-thirds of employers—62 percent—said that they have “difficulty in finding qualified applicants to fill vacancies,” while 65 percent said most of the people they hire over the next four years will need at least an associate’s degree.

The survey, released Thursday, October 8, is based on online and telephone polls of 1,000 workers and 601 employers conducted during the summer by the Benenson Strategy Group. The firm also held focus groups with blue-collar workers in Columbus, Ohio, and white-collar workers in Denver.

The skill shortage is having a detrimental effect on business operations, according to the study. More than half of employers—51 percent—indicated that at least 16 percent of their workforces have a skill gap that affects productivity.

“The survey findings underscore the fact that we can and must do a better job of training and developing talent in the United States,” William D. Green, chairman and CEO of Accenture, said in a statement. “With these findings, we can better understand the challenges facing our workforce, and developing and implementing solutions to overcome them is critical to ensuring America’s future.”

Green is chairman of The Springboard Project, a Business Roundtable commission that is developing recommendations on improving the U.S. workforce.

Although there is a growing emphasis on credentials, companies indicate their biggest frustration with performance centers on “soft skills.” They report “severe deficits” in such areas as work ethic, self-motivation, personal accountability, punctuality, time management and professionalism.

The survey also showed that workers are eager to bolster their skills, with 81 percent who participated in training and education outside the workplace saying they would do so again.

The barriers preventing them from seeking training include a lack of time and money as well as a concern that the effort will not boost their career prospects. They would be “very likely” to sign up for programs if they included flexible classroom hours, tuition reimbursement and a curriculum designed by leaders of local industry.

“They want to know that it’s relevant to the new economy and the skills that they acquire will help them in getting a new job,” said Joel Benenson, president of the Benenson Strategy Group.

They also seek assurance that their credentials will hold up in the job market. That’s why a number of employees—26 percent—say that universities and community colleges should be the primary sources of education and training.

“Workers want to know the provider of the training is credible with their employer,” said Susan Traiman, director of public policy at the Business Roundtable.

—Mark Schoeff Jr.

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