Where Did All the Candidates Go?

Employers that have shifted from layoffs or hiring freezes to hiring and rehiring workers in a frenzy may find themselves coming up short with qualified candidate pools and asking where all the candidates went during the pandemic. Some blame it on people who are receiving unemployment payments, others blame it on people not willing to work because of health concerns related to Covid-19, and some point to lack of affordable childcare for working parents. While there may be some truth in the noted reasons, there is another reason employers are overlooking. Rather than a labor shortage, consider the concept that our country has a skill shortage.

The skill shortage did not occur overnight and is not a result of the pandemic. The pandemic may have delayed the inevitable as there was a temporary slowdown of work; however, the need to identify and train needed skills for the work today has not consistently been addressed. Employers who expect candidates to acquire the necessary skills through either education or other employers may find themselves “chasing their tail” to get qualified and top candidates.

Although some may argue they are already behind the curve and need skilled (whatever the skill is) workers today, continuing to ignore the need to upskill workers will not go away. To get in front of the curve, employers may consider creating their own talent pipeline by taking a proactive approach to skilling workers for future needs. This may include:

  • Create an internship program. Identify schools that have educational programs that support your line of business. Engage with the school to identify students to participate in a paid internship where students can learn and grow. At the end of the internship, be prepared to offer the top candidates a full-time job after they graduate.
  • Offer a tuition reimbursement program specifically targeting the disciplines that support your future skills needs for your business. Find ways to offer flexible work arrangements if possible so employees can go to school and work simultaneously.
  • Create internal training programs that offer bite-sized training opportunities for employees to grow beyond proficient in their current role. This can be in the form of classroom, eLearning, or blended learning.

Whatever strategy to re-skill your workforce makes sense for your business, remember that re-skilling is more than learning new skills. It is learning new skills that can be immediately applied to the work of your business. Additionally, it is important to recognize that re-skilling takes a financial and time investment. It does not happen overnight, but with the right intentional focus, it will reap the benefits in the future. Employers Council staff is here to help; give us a call.