Does the Global Skill Gap Threaten the Future of Skilled Labor?

close-up photo of a vehicle technician holding a wrench | does the global skill gap threaten skilled labor

We’ve mentioned the Global Skill Gap in a handful of other articles. We discussed how to better inform our children of opportunities in skilled trades as an alternative to college. We also celebrated the hard work that the men and women of skilled trades perform each and every day. 

Without skilled trades, our society would come to a screeching halt. And, unfortunately, it seems we get a little closer to that reality each year.

The automotive service industry, as well as several other industries, has been navigating this skill gap for decades. As a training manager, after years of dealing with this issue as best you could, you may have begun to notice that it can no longer be ignored. So why is that, and what do we do about it?

What is the Global Skill Gap?

The Global Skill Gap refers to the inconsistency between the skills and qualifications that those joining the workforce possess and the skills that are demanded by employers and industries. It is a situation where there is a mismatch between the skills that job seekers or employees have and the skills that are required to perform effectively in various job roles or industries. This gap can occur at regional, national, or even international levels.

Essentially, industries that are impacted by this skill gap are no longer able to find employees who have the qualifications necessary to perform as the job demands. Extended enterprises are no exception. Relying heavily on effective communication to collaborate among multiple organizations, often across various geographic locations all over the globe, the skill gap is particularly difficult to manage

What Caused the Global Skill Gap?

There are many reasons why industries are facing a global skill gap. The most common one is the work culture shift that happened over the last few decades, pushing most new high school graduates towards college and away from trade schools and skilled labor. 

This educational shift made college seem to be the only route to success, the only route to a career. And that’s simply not true. There are many options in skilled labor that pose very successful career paths that have been outshined by the expectation to attend a four-year university. 

While the skills and knowledge gained in universities are equally valuable to our society and economy, the decrease in skilled labor has slowly caused an imbalance in the workforce. With fewer qualified technicians coming out of trade schools and apprenticeships, there is a deficit of skilled labor in the industry. This lack of skilled labor is causing a detrimental impact on organizations and is very close to impacting the economy.

Why Is the Global Skill Gap Widening?

This gap continues to grow for many reasons. The most recent cause is the three-year restrictions imposed by the pandemic in conjunction with multiple other variables. 

Covid caused quite a bit of havoc for many industries, and automotive service was one of them. With something as simple as the disruption of the education system due to lockdowns and social distancing, students lost access to quality education and collaboration. With no career days or career fairs available to students to allow them to explore options beyond high school, even in the midst of a pandemic, recruitment into skilled trades was at an all-time low. 

Skilled trades are not particularly remote-friendly, and with strict mandates in place that forced many jobs to adapt to virtual working environments to replace hands-on training, workshops, and seminars, many skills were not mastered in the way that they normally would have been – exacerbating the skill gap. 

What Are the Implications of the Global Skill Gap?

With the need for skilled labor continuing to be present despite the lack of qualified or accredited technicians available, organizations were forced to hire the best options for the job and do their best to provide the training necessary to perform their work. This leads to increased labor costs on the organizational level as technicians are taken away from productivity to undergo hours of training due to these gaps. 

This skill gap is costing industries billions of dollars in revenue each year. The lack of skilled manpower equates to slower turnaround times on service and repairs. Even if they had the numbers they needed, the lack of experienced and skilled manpower is still costing them money in revenue. It takes someone skilled in a trade a lot less time to do something than someone who isn’t.

Imagine remodeling your bathroom. Let’s say you have minimal background knowledge in tile, plumbing, cabinetry, etc. It would take you significantly longer to learn the skills necessary to perform the remodel to the level of quality that an experienced contractor could. Possibly even triple the amount of time. This is the problem that the Global Skill Gap is causing in skilled trades all over the globe. 

Without enough people to do the job, you’re losing money. And even if you have enough new people, they’re only able to handle a fraction of the work that one skilled laborer could do. 

How Can We Correct the Skill Gap?

Solving the global skill gap is a complex and multifaceted challenge that requires collaborative efforts from educational institutions, industries, and individuals. So, what can we do to fill this skill gap in our industries?

Upskilling & Reskilling Programs

Many members of the workforce joined during a time when the industry needed workers but was unable to provide quality training. These laborers have learned their trade as a trial-by-fire, so to speak. 

By offering remedial programs that present these workers with the opportunity to go back and receive an accelerated training course in their trade, they can have a firmer understanding of their trade and fill any current gaps that they are operating with. UpSkilling programs are also beneficial in that they allow technicians to take the initiative to improve or level up their skills with an accelerated training program on a specific topic. 

These types of programs can take the manpower of many different organizations to the level of skilled manpower – providing an increase in productivity and, thus, revenue. 

Industry-Education Collaboration

Another step that can be made in bridging the skill gap for the future is to foster strong partnerships between educational institutions and industries to align the current curriculum with current and future job market needs.

By involving industry professionals in curriculum design, guest lectures, and practical training to bridge the gap between education and employment, skilled labor becomes a very viable option to many students as more than just a job but a rewarding career. And a career that they feel somewhat prepared for. 

Promote STEM Education

Skilled trades lean heavily on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and there has been an increase in students’ interest in STEM fields in the last few decades since educational institutions have emphasized these subjects and provided additional programs. Continued emphasis and education in these areas can prepare students for roles in technology-driven industries or industries that rely heavily on engineering.

Ensuring these programs are available for all students from all walks of life despite representation or economic hardship is key. For those students who may not feel like college is an option for them but want a solid, rewarding, and comfortable career for their families, skilled trades based in STEM are a perfect option to improve not only the Global Skill Gap but the widening socioeconomic gap. 

Apprenticeships and Internships

Expanding participation in apprenticeship and internship programs to offer hands-on experience and practical training to students and job seekers could vastly improve the amount of skilled labor in the workforce.

With the appropriate career guidance and counseling, businesses can collaborate with educational institutions to create apprenticeship and intern opportunities for students who show genuine interest and a desire to participate in a specific industry. 

By allowing those entering the workforce to see what it is like to work in a skilled trade of their interest, you are already one step closer to bridging the skill gap and recruiting quality labor into your organization. 

Tools to Bridge the Skill Gap

LatitudeLearning offers a comprehensive enterprise learning platform that can help manage all of the training needs of your enterprise. In light of the skill gap we are facing, providing a personalized training experience is key to ensuring that all network members are receiving the information they need and only what is pertinent to their job function.

With customized user profiles and advanced algorithms, LatitudeLearning can ensure that the gaps identified during their assessments are corrected immediately. Additional enrollment in supplementary materials can begin to fill gaps that are identified early on. 

LatitudeLearning also offers advanced metrics and integration with key performance indicators (KPIs) to help you measure the impact that your training program is having on the day-to-day roles and responsibilities of your technicians. 

For more information on how LatitudeLearning can be a useful tool in the future of your enterprise learning program, take a look at our ebook, Back to Normal? The Future of Extended Enterprise Learning for Partner Networks.

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