November 16, 2011
Who should pay to update your skills? You or your employer?
Last week, NWjobs blogger Matt Youngquist wrote about the skills gap -- the increasing divide between the qualifications companies seek and those job hunters actually possess.
According to a new study from global management consulting company Accenture, 55 percent of U.S. workers feel under the gun to update their job skills in order to succeed at their current company or with future employers. Yet just one in five of the 1,088 employed and unemployed U.S. workers polled say they've gained new skills courtesy of training programs their employer has offered in the past five years.
The study found that other discrepancies in closing the skills gap abound, too. Behold:
Unemployed workers aren't sure what skills they should pursue. More than two-thirds of workers say that updating their skills is their responsibility, not their employer's. But one in two unemployed workers aren't sure which skills employers will want in the next five years. (Among employed workers, that figure is less -- just one in five.)
Employers lack a complete picture of the skills their people possess. More than half of workers polled say their company keeps a record of their individual skills. Yet more than a third say their employer just relies on job experience and education when making a hire, instead of considering specific skills and talents, too.
Employers squander the skills their people possess by making it hard to change jobs within the company. More than one-third of workers say they'd be up for changing jobs within their company "where demand for their skills is strongest or their skills could be put to better use." Yet only half of them say their employer makes clear the skills needed to switch roles or careers within the company. And only one-third of them say that making such a move is easy to do at their company.
Workers don't know which skills they need to change careers. Almost two-thirds of the workers polled switched careers at least once in recent years due to the tricky job market. But only a quarter of them had any idea of the skills they'd need in their new career before making the leap.
Workers and consulting companies can moan about employers not doing enough to foster talent from within all they want. But an employer isn't a life coach or nanny. Yes, it would be nice if every employer took each staff member under their wing and helped them grow professionally. But that's not the business world we live in today. Some companies don't have the time, money, or good sense to do so.
Moral of the story: If you want to ensure your job skills are fresh and in demand, make it your business to research which talents you need to get hired, promoted, or transferred, or to transition to a new industry or career. Rely on your company to do the legwork for you, and you might be waiting a very long time.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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