U.S. ‘skills gap’ is real: HR professionals can’t find suitable job candidates

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 1,352 views 

A recently released report by the nation’s top human resource trade group said the “skills gap” in the U.S. is real and getting worse as four out of five hiring professionals say they’ve had difficulty recruiting suitable candidates in the past year.

The recent research from the Society for Human Resource Management, commonly referred to as SHRM, highlights the urgent need to address the training of workers and improve public-policy governing work, officials said.

“A majority of Americans (63%) believe what employers facing difficulty in recruiting have known for some time — there is a skills shortage in the workforce,” said SHRM President and CEO Johnny Taylor. “What is now clear is that innovative thinking and resolute action are needed, and public policy must change.”

According to the most recent SHRM Skills Gap Survey report, 52% of HR professionals said that the skills gap has worsened or greatly worsened in the past two years. Another 83% said they have noticed a decrease in the quality of job applicants, with one-third citing a lack of needed technical skills.

The gap is evident in the trades, middle-skilled positions and highly skilled STEM positions, the report said, with carpentry, plumbing, welding and machining among the technical abilities most lacking in the workforce. Data analysis, science, engineering, medical and finance are other areas in short supply.

More than one-quarter of HR respondents said their businesses collaborate with schools to build a pipeline of job candidates. But almost one-half believe that the education system has done very little to help address the issue. For some jobs with labor shortages, employment-based immigration is the right remedy.

A supermajority of about 85% of HR respondents to the SHRM Employment-Based Immigration Survey said it was very important to recruit workers regardless of their national origin. While about three-quarters of survey respondents said foreign-born workers contribute positively to U.S. economic growth and help drive innovation, more than one-third said their businesses were challenged by an insufficient number of employment-based visas, such as H-1Bs, to recruit these workers.

One-third said the employment-based immigration process was lengthy and complex with unpredictable results. Respondents also called for the removal of roadblocks to ensuring a legal workforce. What is needed now are more employment visas, mandatory E-Verify, and a trusted employer program for low-risk, immigration-compliant companies, the survey said.

The SHRM Skills Gap Survey polled 1,028 HR professionals and the SHRM Employment-Based Immigration Survey polled 785 HR professionals. Both were conducted in September 2018. To view the report, click here.