Is the US falling behind in the race to build a talent bench?

Is the US falling behind in the race to build a talent bench?

The skills gap in the United States that was already prevalent before the pandemic has grown to an alarming size. In 2020, many senior-level roles were given early retirement options to help cut the overhead costs that businesses were experiencing.

These were generally about 2 to 3 years early. Such companies replaced these by consolidating departments elsewhere, promoting upwards from lower levels of management, and hiring a few people here and there to plug the gaps. But then, the market rebounded past the predicated level, leaving companies unable to act fast enough and train/hire the necessary talent – leaving them without a “talent bench.” The lack of talent at the senior level became evident.

The Reality of the Situation

The United States is bearing the brunt of this. The country currently ranks 29th globally in digital skills, a position that only worsened during the pandemic. This is despite having four times the number of jobs that require technical skills such as AI and machine learning than India, the next-largest market. For each US job in this field, data suggests that there are only eight potential candidates available. Considering the number of fields that are implementing technological skills into their operations, like manufacturing, it’s not unreasonable to infer that basic digital literacy will be a cornerstone of many jobs going forward.

Public education in STEM fields is currently at pitiful levels as well, again exacerbated by the pandemic and the disruption that came with switching to remote learning. Previous US administrations also missed the mark on a large talent pool by making it difficult for foreign nationals to stay and work in the US following the completion of their STEM degree. Such international students were also heavily impacted by distance learning rather than physically travelling to the US for education. This doesn’t bode well for the future, considering that Microsoft recently estimated that by 2025, there will be 150 million new jobs in the digital sphere. As the manufacturing sphere incorporates more and more technological and digital tools into its processes, we can expect to see a number of these new jobs coming from companies that don’t have anything to do with digital on a surface level.

Areas of Growth

Technology is, unsurprisingly, the largest area of growth in terms of jobs and roles. Subsectors of growth include cloud computing, data analysis, cybersecurity, and software development. Technologies of this type are also filtering their way into other industries, like commodities. Smaller industries that are also experiencing a severe talent shortage include supply chain management and healthcare. Supply chain management in particular shouldn’t come as a surprise – businesses all over the world are in the process of onshoring their labor practices and switching from just-in-time models to just-in-case, creating the need for seasoned professionals who can oversee these transitions.

In all of these cases, employers aren’t necessarily looking solely for candidates who have Master’s degrees in their fields. Coders who taught themselves how to code via the internet are in high demand as well. This is part of an effort to bridge the gap and become more inclusive of different learning paths, which is seen as more acceptable as the future of work is being redefined itself.

Moves to be Made

US employers must address the rapidly broadening skills gap and concerning levels of talent scarcity before it’s too late. This should be done through a combination of reskilling and upskilling its current workforce and re-evaluating hiring and retainment practices.

A PwC study from 2020 found that companies with the most advanced upskilling programs saw three times the improvement in innovation. Not to mention that workers are more likely to stay with their employers if they are offered some skills training. At Verizon, for example, exists a program called “Skills Forward.” The program is a series of free courses available to the American workforce to prepare them for the digital roles that are in highest demand. Taking such courses and redefining one’s skillset is also good for employee confidence in their own competency. This is especially true when introducing digital tools into the supply chain and manufacturing roles. Processes are being optimised and data is being leveraged like it never has before – allowing your employees some training may reassure them of the advantages of new technology and help them become more comfortable using it.

The second major thing to do is to re-evaluate your company’s offering. This point is becoming more and more crucial as many businesses start to warm to the idea of four-day work weeks, unlimited holiday pay, etc. Especially considering that technological roles are in such high demand, it’s really the candidate’s world at this point. Making sure your company has some significant benefits to offer a candidate is imperative for them to consider working with you.

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by Tim Thompson-Essexview my profile

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