Valley Seminar Compares Employee Skills to Employer Needs

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Shenandoah Valley human resource professionals are looking at the difference between the skills employers are seeking and what applicants bring to the table.

Even though about 11 million Americans cannot find jobs, there are 4 million open slots out there that companies cannot fill because candidates aren't meeting the requirements. A seminar at Bridgewater College Tuesday tried to bridge that gap.

Long before the economic downturn, HR professionals had concerns about the skills gap. Not only does this alarming trend contribute to difficulty landing jobs and challenges in filling them, but it also permeates other aspects of society.

"The skills gap is an issue that has to be addressed by businesses, it has to be addressed by educators, it has to be addressed by policymakers,” said Henry “Hank” Jackson, CEO of Society for Human Resource Management.

At Tuesday’s seminar, Jackson addressed ramifications of the skills gap and what actions communities can take. He also touched on the timing: as one generation prepares to exit the work force, another needs even more support to step up.

"There are approximately 75 million baby boomers that are preparing to retire. When you look at the numbers, and in the next 10 years, it is staggering how many people you will have to replace simply because of retirement,” Jackson said.

It's all going to take some work.

"Basic things that really should be taught in college - and perhaps are - and students are not retaining them. And right up front, that sets an unprofessional face to the person that's applying for that position, said Susan Grossman, the president of the Shenandoah Valley Society for Human Resource Management.

HR leaders say technical training is very important to maintain the kinds of industries prevalent in the valley, such as manufacturing. They also say, however, that no matter what job you're looking for, it always helps to expand your capabilities.

Critical thinking and problem solving, followed by work ethic, writing and leadership were the most deficient skills reported by employers.

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