The working industry is facing a lot of challenges right now. Beneath the encompassing pandemic, there is the ongoing change through innovative technologies, like Artificial Intelligence, allowing the industry’s revolution towards automation. On the other hand, there is a less tangible development: skills shortage. When talking from skills shortage what is mostly meant is a lack of positions fitting jobseekers, so employers are not able to find employees meeting their expectations. But it can also mean a worker does not have certain skills that are expected from him. Either way round: There is a great demand for positions that companies are not able to fill. Where this comes from and what consequences it has, will be discussed in the following.
Origins of a lack of employees
Of course, in a complex construct as a society, there are various reasons leading to a state of skills shortage. Experts mention four reasons as main aspects.
- The mindset regarding education.
In nowadays society, high education is considered as a crucial requirement for a fulfilling job and a bright future. Therefore, the average level of graduation increased and there is an academization of society ongoing. For example, among the mid-sixty-year-olds only one fourth have an A-Level or a comparable degree, while nowadays more than half of the mid-twenties have one. As people want to do jobs adequate to their qualifications, many jobs cannot be filled due to an overqualification of the possible applicants.
- The age-structure.
Everybody who even had a quick glance at the age structure of our society is aware of the Baby Boomers Generation - a peak in birth rates. They are born between 1946 and 1964 when the second world war was over and the economy started to flourish again. Consequently, this generation is now between 56 and 74 years old and contemporary more and more of them are retiring. This age group offered a lot of experience and workforce, which is hard to be fulfilled by the following generations.
- Definition of skill.
The wording skills shortage implies the word skill, which can be interpreted in different ways. Most people are thinking of it as the level of education and degrees. This connects to point one: In nowadays society, high education is considered as a crucial requirement for a fulfilling job and a bright future. But for many employers, there are not only those hard skills that qualify an applicant for a certain job but also the soft skills. The lack of soft skill is truly a problem in the working world. This is, inter alia, due to the mindset in society as young people are often admonished to keep their CV in mind. Sometimes, this seems to be considered more important than building a strong personality and gaining soft skills.
- Economic Growth: low unemployment.
What actually is a very good sign regarding the wealth of a country, can also lead to problems. If a country is economically growing and is therefore constantly in need of new workers, low unemployment is a result. What might seem good for jobseekers, can be very worrying for employers. There is a shortage of workers fitting their job offer on the Labour Market.
Working on it
There is a variety of factors that can be adapted to face the skills shortage in business. Especially managers need to realize there is a priority shift away from the size of salary more to other factors that make jobs attractive to employees, for example, appreciation, flexibility, and feedback culture. However, there are jobs, where not only the soft factors have to be improved, but also adequate paying. In times of COVID-19, there was a focus on the paying gap between economic and social jobs. As many social jobs, like educator or nurse, are system relevant, there need to be a fair paying in comparison to economic jobs. Consequently, there has not only to be a new way of thinking making jobs more attractive due to satisfaction and happiness but also to fair paying and an upgrade of appreciation for less prestigious jobs.
Additionally, in the process of work not only being duty but also a part of the personal identification, companies need to offer reskilling to their employees. A new way of thinking could also be offering on-the-job training to qualify a worker for a job, who initially lacked required skills or experience.
But there are also quite unconventional solutions. For example, the government of New Zealand did a proactive step and set up a Website, where people can check whether their profession is defined as a skill shortage in NZ. If so, the government provides information about Visa right away.
Use it or lose it
One thing is sure: The economy needs to face the development of a growing shortage of workforce. Many companies are not as lucrative as they could be, because of a lack of skilled workers. At the moment in Germany, one can find one million hiring positions and growing. Until 2030 this number might triple. In the USA engineering, and especially electronics engineering, is among the top ten skills shortage fields. (Please note, that the mentioned studies in the following were carried out before the COVID-19 pandemic, this might influence the development.) In August 2019 the US economy had 7.6 million unfilled jobs, but only 6.5 million people were looking for work, which shows the clash between expectations of employers and employees. Also at this time, there were 16,000 job openings for electricians with more anticipated as many current electricians are near retirement age. Of course, the amount of unemployment has dramatically risen due to COVID-19. But comparing the numbers before the crises has greater informative value in regards to a skills shortage as the economy is currently in an exceptional situation.