5 Myths of the Skills Gap

The skills gap is reported as being a top concern for employers, but there may be more there than meets the eye. While nearly half of all employers report having a difficult time hiring employees to fill positions, many don’t discuss the hidden reasons behind the difficulty of hiring. The skills gap is real and it certainly exists, but there tend to be a lot of myths surrounding it. Here, we break some of those myths down and talk about what the skills gap really is and isn’t.

  1. Myth: The skills gap is to blame for the thousands of unfilled positions.

    In all reality, there are many aspects that contribute to positions going unfilled. Employers feeling its effects, politicians using it to defend unemployment rates, superintendents seeking school reform and others place a lot of fault on the skills gap. But the fact is, there are things going on behind the scenes when employers have a difficult time hiring, such as not offering competitive salaries, setting unrealistic expectations and more. Proponents of the “non-existent skills gap” theory would argue that it actually has little to do with being unable to find qualified employees and everything to do with the fact that employers just don’t pay enough to get the level of talent they’re looking for. 
  2. Myth: One of the main reasons the skills gap exists is because employees need years of higher education to learn a skill, which is a deterrent.

    This myth is both true and false. It is true that the skills gap exists because employees don’t have the necessary training to do a job and depending on the job, that training can sometimes take years to complete. However, there are many job openings that fall victim to the skills gap that don’t require higher education. In fact, the Brookings Institute conducted a study that revealed half of all science, technology, engineering and math jobs in the U.S. do not require a four-year degree.

    It’s my belief that it’s not necessarily the length of time it takes to learn a skill that keeps people from doing so, but instead is the difficulty of understanding the subject matter (math, science) and the lack of motivation to stick with a program.
  3. Myth: Bridging the skills gap means companies won’t need to train their employees.

    The myth that qualified employees take away the need for employers to provide training couldn’t be further from the truth. Even when employees come to a job with all the necessary skills and training, technology shifts, processes change and industries evolve. The most qualified people will experience the skills gap at some point in their career. Short of hiring all new employees every time there’s a change to the business, companies will still need to provide training. 
  4. Myth: Universities, schools and technical programs are to blame for those who come out of their programs unqualified.

    You know the phrase “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”? Well you can provide students with educational opportunities but you can’t actually force them to learn. Even in the best schools, students graduate or complete programs, unequipped to enter the real world. On the other hand, schools have a long way to go to better equip our young people. Many universities and technical schools are combatting this by providing very job-specific training that really acts more as an extended onboarding for specific jobs or companies. It’s one step in the right direction to bridging the gap between schools and employers. 
  5. Myth: The skills gap doesn’t exist.

    As I mentioned in the first myth, there are some who believe the skills gap simply doesn’t exist. They make the valid point that unemployment is all about supply and demand. They say that if there was truly a shortage of qualified workers, employers would pay more and the demand would be met by candidates willing to get the training they needed to earn those higher salaries. There are some compelling arguments for the non-existent skills gap theory, but I do believe it exists as I have personally seen it severely affect businesses. The skills gap sometimes tends to be the go-to scapegoat for those attempting to explain why it’s so difficult to fill positions, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

Do you have other myths to add to this list or a different viewpoint on the skills gap? Let us know in the comments below.


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2 Comments on "5 Myths of the Skills Gap"

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Part of the hiring issues are that people don’t want to give up their government assistance to earn $25/hr.  Between unemployment compensation, Medicaid and food assistance cards they are better off not paying for gas to get a job. These are assembly type positions that do require some electrical or mechanical knowledge but not advanced degrees.   Trying to recruit for positions in this pay range is difficult.

Cynthia Ellis

You address this issue right on!  It is really a case of supply and demand – so, companies feel they have the upper hand right now – but remain unwilling to invest in their business by investing in their employees.  Unfortunately, people have become a commodity at a low-cost / high yield level.  Until that changes, nothing else will.