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Different Skills, Different Gaps

Measuring and Closing the Skills Gap

March 14, 2018 by Emsi Burning Glass

The term “skills gap” conjures up the image of one giant chasm, a sort of Grand Canyon between what employers need and what workers can provide. But that suggests that the skills gap has a single cause and a single solution. In fact, different industries and occupations experience the problem in different ways. Rather than one canyon, the gap is much more akin to a series of potholes, damaging some industries and avoided by others.

In this report for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Emsi Burning Glass approached the problem using an innovative new model to map both supply (using federal workforce statistics) and demand (based on job postings). With this approach, we are able to assess the worker shortfall at an occupational level, role by role. This provides a picture of which roles, industry by industry, have robust talent supply chains and which face gaps. With this insight, training providers and policy makers can direct resources into the right channels.

In 12 of the career areas we studied, we found that demand for workers exceeded available supply by a total of 4.4 million openings.

In some fields, such as health care, the challenge seems to be a straightforward problem of demand exceeding supply. In other areas of the job market, hiring and training systems seem to be misaligned with what employers demand.

Another area of interest was a comparison to trends during and after the Great Recession. In 2016, there were 5% more openings than available workers, compared to 2012, in the midst of the recession, when there were 5% more available workers than openings.

When looking at more detailed trends over the course of recovery from the recession, many skilled occupations such as computer roles, engineers, and health care professionals had skill gaps consistently throughout this period. Middle skill occupations such as administrative roles and maintenance/repair roles had a surplus of workers during the period of high unemployment, but now face shortages in the number of available workers relative to openings.

Download the report.

Emsi Burning Glass

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