Closing the Skills Gap with E-Learning Solutions

Closing the Skills Gap with E-Learning Solutions

The emergence of new workplace technologies continues to threaten older and less skilled workers, while allowing for specially skilled employees to fill these new roles. Unfortunately, these special skills can be hard to find. The resulting skills gap is hurting both employees and employers as both sides seek necessary skills for growth.

Keep reading to see how e-learning interventions can upskill seasoned employees and first-time workers to bridge the gap between job requirements and employee know-how.

Developing technologies have been increasing business growth for decades, and with each new advancement, comes both a loss in jobs, as well as opportunities for new jobs. While some workers may have gained the necessary skills to fill these roles, older generations and less educated workers are getting left behind.

Although the U.S. unemployment rate is low at 4.3 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are seven million unemployed persons and 6.2 million job openings. So why aren’t unemployed workers filling the millions of open jobs?

One culprit is the skills gap...

What is the Skills Gap?

The skills gap is created by a lack of training for the jobs available. As technology continues to advance business growth, the skills demanded of potential employees have become more specialized. Similarly, more roles are requiring a four-year degree, and in fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor predicts that 65% of all jobs will require post-secondary education by 2020. When workers don’t have the skills and/or education required to fill these positions, they are left unemployed or underemployed.

It’s not just employees feeling the effects of growing technology. Business are having a harder time finding the right employees they need and want. In fact, in a 2016/2017 Talent Shortage Survey, 46 percent of U.S. employers reported difficulty filling open jobs. That means businesses are not able to operate at full capacity, thereby limiting potential growth and success.

3 Causes of the Skills Gap:

#1: Baby Boomers.

The baby-boom generation was born between 1945 and 1964. These 76 million Americans have significantly contributed to a steady rise in the average age of the U.S. workforce. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 25 percent of the U.S. workforce will be 55 years old and older by 2020. With that said, many baby boomers are currently retired in their 70s with millions more retiring each day.

The problem with an aging workforce is that older employers might not have the modern skills necessary to keep up with advancements in technology without additional education, training, and skills development. Additionally, if they do retire, they are taking their skills and industry expertise with them.

The oil and gas industry, for example, is one of the hardest hit by retiring baby boomers. In this industry, it takes an average of eight to ten years to properly train workers, specifically in job safety. With seasoned workers leaving the industry, and new workers facing a long training and development model -- which many may quit before becoming proficient -- businesses are left with a gap in experienced employees.

#2: Lack of Skilled Tradesman.

Poor perception of skilled trades has resulted in more people choosing traditional college routes in the hopes of increased return upon graduation. Traditionally a college diploma will earn higher wages and increased opportunities but as noted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage in manufacturing, which provides middle skill positions, is $77,830.

While college achievements are favored in many positions, and can sometimes give graduates an upper hand, it largely depends on the industry. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) 2015 Salary Survey showed that salary averages for college graduates have a wide range that vary based on degree.

#3: Traditional Education.

Most college students believe their diploma will ready them for the industry they want to join after graduation, while employers today also seek work-ready employees.

For example, in recent years there has been a call for more STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subject education to keep up with growing technology and trade job needs, specifically in the oil and gas industry. Despite this need and the jobs available, traditional colleges often focus on general studies and foundational skills, rather than industry, role, or employer specific needs.

The E-Learning Solution:

Without addressing the mass exodus of baby boomer retirees and the need for more skilled and work-ready employees, the skills gap in the U.S. will continue to grow. The positive is that there is a solution that is accessible, cost-effective, easily implemented, and works with the potential employee to increase skills based on current education.

E-learning provides people with an opportunity to increase their current skills, learn something new, or reinforce necessary tools using digitally-based content. Rather than shy away from our reliance on technology, e-learning uses it to empower learners seeking quick and affordable avenues for upskilling.

Here’s an example of some of the e-learning solutions that can help bridge the gap between what employers want and what employees can offer:

  • Blended Workplace and Higher Education Learning: Customizable organizational training that qualifies for college credit, based on what employers need their employees to know and to do, provides a win-win for the employer and the employee.

    The employer ensures that employees secure knowledge appropriate for their organization, while the trained employee is able to provide proof of course completion to the higher educational institution providing equivalent college credit. The scenario helps reduce the cost of degree completion for the employee-student while facilitating organizational success through trained and motivated employees.

  • Microlearning: Short bursts of microlearning “nuggets” are provided to learners in 3-5 minute sessions in a digitally-based format. Nuggets of content may be delivered using videos, scenarios, whiteboard animation, and or text-based animation.

    Only one learning outcome is expected to be achieved after each nugget of content has been consumed. Learners demonstrate their understanding using scenario-based testing that requires application of content in real-world, or professionally-based situations.

  • Microlearning solutions can also incorporate adaptive learning techniques to individualize the curriculum based on where each learner is.

    The skills gap is a growing issue in the United States and our need for a more educated and modern workforce is necessary to continue growing and utilizing the technology available. Businesses can begin to close this gap with current and prospective employees using e-learning solutions that are accessible, affordable, and timelier than a traditional education. Not only will employees gain the skills necessary to stay competitive, but businesses will gain the employees they need as well.

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