Workforce Skills Gap: Filling the Holes for Today and Tomorrow


Something is missing. There is a disconnect somewhere. As the unemployment quagmire we are in deepens, people are searching desperately for their next job and a new career. The candidate pool for employment applicants is brimming to the top. Employers have their pick of the litter of quality talent who are willing to take a lower-paying job with decreased status and benefits.

So, in an economy like this, wouldn’t it be hard to believe that there were good, high-paying jobs that could not be filled? Well, believe it because it is happening right here, right now, in southeastern Michigan and around the rest of the state.

In August of this year, Oakland County released a comprehensive skill needs report for emerging workforce sectors.

This powerful report outlines the high-growth job areas and the skills that will be required to support job in fields like:

  • Bio-technology
  • Medical Devices and Instrumentation
  • Advanced Materials and Chemicals
  • Alternative Energy and Power Generation
  • Advanced Electronics and Control Systems
  • Micro/Nano Technology
  • Financial Services
  • Robotics and Automation
  • Homeland Security
  • Communication and Information Technology

This report was developed in an effort to provide employers, educators, and future employees with target areas that will need to be addressed to build up the new economy in the coming years.

Yet, as I was talking to one of colleagues who is in the recruiting and staffing industry, he expressed concern about what opportunities are being missed in the efforts to turn the economy around in Michigan. He noted that many current industries are retooling to support these emerging sectors, yet are unable to find competent workers to fill positions that are currently open.

The reason these jobs can’t be filled is that there is now a skill gap, especially in manufacturing, where current skills are not enough for workers to transition into new positions.

So, the problem is two-fold; skills gaps need to be filled now for current jobs as well as be filled for the future industries being seeded within Michigan. That is why the counties and states are spending millions of dollars on workforce retraining.

It is important that we continue down a parallel path of workforce retraining, where short-term skills gaps can be filled immediately through accelerated training and certification programs. This can place people in jobs now while more comprehensive learning programs can be developed to support the emerging business sectors.