by Stephen Hinton
The “Skills Gap” is one of the hottest discussions in the economic, education, employment and political realms. The big questions on everyone’s mind are: How can so many unemployed workers not be qualified for the new jobs coming available? and What can job-seekers do about it?
Let me offer some suggestions on how job-seekers can “skill up” for these well-paying and high-skilled job opportunities.
Let’s get started.
Lost In The “Skills Gap”
Those who know me personally know that I love science fiction because it can open a person’s eyes to possibilities. One of the most popular and dramatic types of sci-fi stories is “lost in time” where the main character is thrown into a future time period by a tragic accident and forced to adjust to the new reality around him or her. In today’s economic climate, being “lost in time” and not having up-to-date education and skills are similar. Let me expound further.
In the technology world, Moore’s law says that technology becomes obsolete every 18 months because of technological changes. The job market is also subject to this law in a sense because the great recession forced employers to cut their labor force, reassign the duties of laid-off workers to those still employed, move operations overseas, or close their doors altogether. Other than the major job losses, the consolidation caused the evolution of new positions that required a broader and higher base of experience, knowledge, and skills. As the recession progressed, the skills of the laid off workers became out of sync with the requirements of newly created jobs. To adapt to the new reality, job-seekers will have to adjust to the higher education and skills requirements employers need.
4 Ways to “Skill Up” in a Post-Recession Economy
Here are some ways job-seekers can “skill up” and get in position for the new job openings.
1. Certification or technical training programs: Certifications and technical training programs are inexpensive ways (compared to a four-year degree program) to gain new technical knowledge and skills. Certifications such as LEED Green Associate are offered by professional associations and certify that a person has achieved a level of competency in a specific area of knowledge. In contrast, technical training programs are usually run by local community colleges or technical schools. They combine hands-on-experience with classroom training to help the student learn new skills quickly.
2. Apprenticeships: Some professions such as electricians, plumbers and machinists offer paid apprenticeship programs in which those interested can get hands-on training while transitioning into the field. Michael Hirsh and Fawn Johnson reported in the National Journal article Desperately Seeking Skills that the U.S. division of Siemens was starting a paid apprenticeship program for non-college-track high-school students at its new natural-gas turbine plant in North Carolina. Programs like these are great opportunities for those who want to change careers.
3. Volunteering: Just because non-profits do not pay volunteers does not mean they are not good training grounds. I have personally seen volunteers in non-profit organizations gain knowledge in how to use databases, build websites, as well as learn accounting principles and other valuable skills through their experiences.
4. Freelance or contract: During a recession, it is important to develop other talents that you may already possess. The Internet has become the new frontier for contractors, freelancers and micropreneurs. Websites such as eBay, Elance, and others have allowed people to earn very good incomes and expand their skills sets through freelancing and contracting.
Final Thoughts on “Skilling Up” for New Jobs
The future is yours.
There is an old saying Anything worth having is worth fighting for. The fight for your future career is in the classroom, on the job floor and on pages of training manuals. Ask yourself Am I ready to fight for my future?
This article is part of Job Action Day 2011.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Stephen Hinton is the managing director of Hinton Human Capital, a search firm that specializes in the green, environmental and infrastructure markets. His Hinton Human Capital Blog articles on green, environmental, and infrastructure jobs have been featured across the Internet.