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In the Nation's Interest

How To Close the Skills Gap

Nearly seven years after the Great Recession, the U.S. skills gap remains a dark cloud hanging over the nation's economic recovery. 

More than half of employers report they have jobs for which they cannot find qualified applicants. Accelerating technological change is driving demand for high-level skill sets. Education and training always have been the gateway to opportunity. But today there seems to be a mismatch between the skills businesses are demanding and the skills that applicants are bringing to the table. Here are three key steps to better match supply and demand in the job market.

1) Increase competency-based hiring. Many job openings require particular educational degrees or training, and "credential creep" means that many jobs that didn't call for higher education now do. For example, almost two-thirds of executive secretary openings now require a BA, but only 19 percent of current executive secretaries are that highly educated.

Let's be honest: whether someone has a bachelor's degree or not, and where they went to school, tells us something about what they know and are able to do, but it doesn't tell us everything. Some people with college degrees from prestigious schools still lack needed job skills. And many people without college degrees have highly relevant skills that they gained in other ways, such as running their own business or in the military.

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