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Workforce Readiness and Training: Don’t Rely on Employers to Bridge the Gap

Kristen Harris

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A perfect storm is brewing, setting us up for a workforce that will be ill-prepared for the jobs of today and the future. Young people are graduating from high school, and even college, lacking basic skills required for success on the job. Companies have ever-increasing needs for basic, applied and specialized skills to compete effectively. And employers are becoming less and less willing to provide on-the-job training. These three factors are leading to a substantial gap between company needs and the preparedness of workers, with employers not necessarily willing to bridge the gap.

A recent study1 examining corporate training practices found almost half of the employers surveyed provide workforce readiness training for new hires, but with less than stellar results. These remedial training programs are designed to build skills that employers expect new employees to have when they are hired, especially as high school, two-year college and four-year college graduates. According to the study, employers consider these training programs to be “moderately” or “somewhat successful” in the best-case scenario, and they have no grasp on what is spent to prepare a new hire for work.

While companies are still willing to provide training for their workers, some are strictly focused on leadership and higher-level skills that can lead to career advancement. Bringing new hires up to speed on basic writing, math and communication skills is not an area where many companies are willing to invest. Often there is a detailed applicant screening process to make sure those basic skills are already in place before an offer is made.

So what can be done about this gap? New workers need to come to a job already prepared with basic skills like math, reading and retention as well as applied skills necessary for the particular position. If a job seeker is lacking in those skills they must focus on getting the training on their own, and not rely on a new potential employer training them. The idea of just getting a job and having the employer teach whatever is needed is not realistic.

The business and job-hunting environments are extremely competitive. New hires must be as prepared as possible to start and be effective immediately, with a minimal learning curve.

1 The Ill-Prepared U. S. Workforce: Exploring the Challenges of Employer-Provided Workforce Readiness Training, 2008, The American Society for Training and Development, The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, and the Society for Human Resource Management

This article may be reprinted when the copyright and author bio are included. ©2010 Kristen Harris, Portfolio Creative, LLC.

Kristen Harris is co-founder and owner of Portfolio Creative, a workforce innovation firm that was named the 326th fastest growing company in the U. S. by Inc. magazine in 2009. Portfolio Creative helps companies streamline and innovate their creative work to save time, energy and money.


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