In a piece a couple of weeks back, we set out what we perceive to be the real issue driving the skills gap. The skills gap is not the fundamental problem, as such, but really the outward manifestation of the underlying problem, which can be summed up as an inability of people, employers and education providers to adequately define and communicate to one another the skills they have, the skills they need and the skills that need to be taught. This has lead to a disconnect between people looking for work, employers seeking workers and education providers training people for work. In turn, this has created a dislocated and underemployed workforce, along with low productivity, all of which is likely to be greatly exacerbated by the current crisis.
The key to solving the problem lies in developing a Language of Skills, and then equipping people and organisations with this language, so that whether it is a person looking to train or upskill for a certain job; an organisation involved in preparing people for involvement in the labour market; or a company looking to hire or source people with the skills they need to succeed, all are speaking the same Language of Skills and are on the same page as one another.
In that piece, we started with the example of John, a Head Chef who finds himself out of work, and who is looking at what he can do next, as well as where he might need to retrain. John’s problem is not that he doesn’t have any skills — he has acquired many during his time in the job — but rather that he struggles to put his finger on what they are. This inability to define them results in three key problems:
- He finds it difficult articulate his skillset on his CV
- His job options are limited as he doesn’t know how his skills might match with jobs outside the restaurant sector
- He doesn’t know where his skills gaps are, and so cannot grasp where he might need to retrain
So how can John get answers to his central problem of how to understand and define his skills, so that he can overcome these three challenges?
In order to demonstrate how this might be done, we’re going to look at a new free tool we’ve developed — Emsi Skills Match — which uses the skills terms we have built up in our Open Skills Library to gives adult learners a way of identifying their existing skills, and which then helps them to match these skills to other careers requiring a similar skillset, as well as identifying gaps which might need to be filled in order for the person to be able to do that job.
If John were asked to define his skills, he might think of some of the more obvious ones, such as cooking and food preparation. But if he puts his job into Skills Match, he is given a large range of very specific skills that are associated with this job. For example, as the image below shows, there are a host of other skills that a Head Chef will have acquired, such as menu planning, team leadership, event planning and team leadership:
Having defined his skills in this way, Skills Match can then help John to match this skillset to other jobs and careers that use similar skills. Unsurprisingly, the jobs that most closely match his skills are in the restaurant and hospitality sectors, but with businesses in those industries hit hard by the shutdown, John really needs to broaden his options to look at jobs in other sectors.
To his surprise (and relief), what he finds is that there are a number of options which, whilst not perfect matches, are reasonably close. As the following image shows, there are a number of areas with an emphasis on skills like budgeting and purchasing, which though not the primary skills John might recall from his time as a Head Chef, are nonetheless things he learned and then used on a frequent basis. In addition, his skills also have similarities with certain jobs within production and manufacturing, as the image below shows:
But of course none of these jobs are a perfect match for John’s skills as a Head Chef, and there are bound to be a number of gaps that he might need to fill. Again, Skills Match can help him, this time by identifying and defining what these skills actually are, so that he can see what areas he might need retraining or upskilling in to give him the best chance of finding new employment:
By referring to our Language of Skills, John can therefore much better define the skills he has acquired and used, which means that he can now:
- Articulate his skills on his CV
- Broaden his job options to close matches beyond the restaurant sector
- Understand where his skills gaps are, so that he can retrain to make himself more employable
In our next piece, we’ll look at the issue from the employer perspective, and then from the perspective of the education provider in a subsequent piece. In the meantime, join us on 3rd June for our webinar, The Language of Skills, when we’ll be looking at this topic in more detail.