Mentorships help bridge skills gap

Nina Anderson
Nina Anderson

One of the biggest issues coming out of the Great Recession that continues to plague businesses is a lack of qualified applicants for many semi-skilled to highly skilled positions in a variety of industries.

Business leaders, economists and politicians have been talking about the skills gap for several years, yet the reality of jobs going unfilled remains a major factor in the economic recovery. Could there be a solution to this problem that’s gone unnoticed and underutilized?

While there’s consensus among most experts there’s a skills gap in the job market, there are varying beliefs on the cause for this gap.

A survey by TEKsystems of information technology professionals and leaders found a disconnect between their reasons for jobs being open and individuals not applying. Leaders in IT believe a lack of skills remains the central reason behind the gap, while professionals in the industry believe the problem has more to do with employers expecting too much in their job descriptions.

Another report by CareerBuilder found that 55 percent of employers and 37 percent of job seekers agree education gaps in particular areas constitute the leading cause for the skills gap. However, job seekers believe gaps in expectations surrounding wages as well as job requirements that are above entry level requirements play a large a role in unfilled jobs.

For years, apprenticeships played a significant role in training the next generation of workers. In the last few decades, the changing dynamics of the workplace have dramatically slowed this practice.

Today, mentorships are often thought of as a relationship between a younger and more experienced professional that helps the young professional develop and learn more about his or her industry. But what if businesses and job seekers thought of mentorships as a way to train new employees who might not have the specific skills for which the employer is looking, but have the work ethic and desire to learn?

Some business leaders could be hesitant to invest in educating employees who have the potential to leave and take this valuable training to another business or possibly even a competitor. However, the CareerBuilder report goes on to state: “An overwhelming 92 percent of employees become more loyal to a company that invests in training them, adding that they are more likely to stay at a company that values them in this way.”

There’s no question the responsibility to bridge the skills gap falls on employees and employers alike. As they enter the hiring process, job candidates should be able to clearly show they have a desire to learn and are willing to spend time receiving training from the best people in the business so they can contribute to company success. Leaders in businesses should begin to develop programs using their best employees to train new hires on the skills needed to succeed.

As the economy continues to recover and businesses continue to look for ways to fill unfilled job openings, mentorships should play a larger role in helping new employees become effective additions to the company. The skills gap is a challenge that can be overcome by employers and job seekers so long as they’re willing to take time teaching and learning.

Mesa County is one of three sites selected to participate in a pilot program of a Sweden-based internship initiative called CareerWise Colorado. The initial goal is to place 35 high school sophomores and juniors with local employers.

If you’re a student or the parent of a student hoping to participate in the initiative, call your school counselor. If you’re an employer seeking to support or participate in the initiative, call the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce for details.