How to fill a skills gap at your firm

Minnesota is blessed with a remarkably low unemployment rate.

Yay!  But employers report a growing struggle to find the skilled employees they need to sustain and grow their businesses.

Debate continues on whether we actually have a skills gap and, if so, who is responsible. Are educators building the skill base that’s needed? Are employers and educators communicating adequately about needs?

Are resources spent appropriately? Does the hiring process eliminate qualified candidates?  The truth is, it will take a community working together to find and prepare employees to sustain and build our local businesses.

So what does an employer do as this struggle for skilled workers accelerates? Familiar methods of recruiting aren’t giving us the results we want.

Augment them with some of the strategies presented here.

  1. Make a list of the primary positions for which you regularly hire. Define the personal attributes (relationship builder, problem solver, team player, and so on) and specific skills (use of particular technologies, drafting, accounting, science degree) that are required for each position. Determine which skills are absolutely needed at entry and those for which you are willing to provide on-the-job training.
    Develop a one-page handout listing attributes and skills needed for each position that can be shared in a variety of places. Once you have this clearly defined, it becomes much easier to share with others what you are looking for.
    With a one-pager in hand they will be prepared to help develop or look for the applicant you need to interview. You might want to consider assessment tools like the Profile XT, DISC, MBTI or Strengths Finder to help you identify the types of individuals you need in your company.
  2. Educate yourself about the availability of schools or other training programs that are or might be the best resources to prepare skilled applicants for your jobs. Spend time on the web or social media to quickly get acquainted with who is leading discussions and whether your skill needs are being represented.
    Attend gatherings with groups that are working to understand and solve local skill shortages.  Check out related conversations with your local chamber of commerce and make sure they understand and represent your specific skills need.
  3. Build and grow partnerships in your community that will help deliver candidates to your doorstep starting with your local community or technical college and Workforce Development Board. They can reinforce your skill needs with educators. Federal and state monies fund these programs to ensure that employers’ skilled workforce needs are being addressed.

Host a career night

  1. Career counseling resources in schools are a thing of the past, and there are so many uniquely skilled jobs that it’s necessary to help people understand the ones your business has to offer. Provide opportunities for students, parents and job seekers to better understand your business and needed skills. Host a career night.
    Encourage employees to bring children and grandchildren to work.  Provide job-shadowing experiences a few hours each month to a couple of students or trainees.  And, if possible, create internships and part-time positions.
  2. On-the-job training is a common way to move an existing employee from one skill set to another. You can enlist a training provider to create courses for specific types of skills if you need help. The MN Job Skills Partnership has money to fund a qualified educational provider who develops and delivers training that your employees need to grow new skills and keep the business competitive.
  3. Ask your employees, former employees, business associates and friends to help you find qualified employees or candidates. This is another situation where you can use that one-page attributes and skills list you created to educate volunteer recruiters.
  4. Contribute to scholarship efforts at one of the schools, colleges or training programs that you identified as teaching the skills you need in applicants. This can be through a foundation or directly with any educational institution you select. This will get your name remembered and solidify your relationship with that school. This can be as little as $500 depending on the type of relationship and skills you’re looking for.

Tap that network

  1. Lastly, network, network, network. Developing a local network is the most effective and least expensive way to start getting the applicants that are best prepared for your organization.
    A rich and lasting network requires ongoing and strategic work, but it pays off in getting others to help you identify and recruit skilled employees. Identify organizations and people that you believe can help you in the talent competition and build relationships with them.
    If you don’t have the time to do this then find an employee, retiree, family member or friend who knows what skills and attributes you need and is capable of representing your interests.

None of these approaches will give you an immediate answer to your needs.  However, adopting these approaches on a long-term basis will help you continually meet your needs. Keep your mind open about what you want to do, and begin to build those partnerships.

Lola Fredrickson




Inez Wildwood