Companies Should Address STEM, Digital Skill Gap

by CXOtoday News Desk    Dec 05, 2014

skill gap

While most companies are looking at job candidates with a strong digital, technology and advanced STEM skills, a new survey reveals that skill shortage in these areas come across as strong impediments. Experts believe this is an area companies need to address seriously.

The survey looks at employers’ perceptions of workers’ skills and indicates that 46 percent of respondents said “skills shortages” are “somewhat problematic,” and 52 percent said they are “problematic” or “very problematic.” The “skills gap” cited in the survey referred to a gap between the skills that employers are looking for and those that job seekers possess.

The survey that interviewed chief executives across manufacturing, transportation, finance, information, construction, and other areas, states that 38 percent of respondents said that at least half of their entry-level applicants lack basic STEM literacy and 28 percent said at least half of their entry-level candidates lack those skills.

Advanced computer and IT as well as general business skills were the two STEM skill areas in which CEOs were most likely to say  employees typically required additional training to close the gap. The CEOs also believe they spent 33 percent of their total training expenses on STEM training last year.

Employers interviewed in the survey indicated they expect to replace 1.6 million workers with basic or advanced STEM skills in the next five years in the US alone.

While the report was based on interviews of recruiters in the US, it has a wider implication. In India too, the industry today requires professional with niche skills unlike in the past. For example, experts believe that increased consumer demand on cloud, analytics, digital products and platforms require that service providers need high-skilled employees with niche capabilities.

Nascom HR survey shows that the emergence of mobility, social media, cloud and big data, the top skills in demand are: data scientists, cloud/virtualization, mobile apps, platform engineering and user experience demand. Apart from these recruiters prefer professionals with leadership, customer interaction, communication, problem solving, and presentation skills.

“Companies needs to reposition itself and attract employees to work on social and digital platforms in order to take it to the next level and for that they need to show them a strong growth path,” says Sangeeta Gupta, senior vice-president, Nasscom.

[Read: Cognizant on a hiring spree to meet SMAC demand]

However, lack of skillsets of candidates in key sectors such as IT/ITeS, banking and manufacturing is preventing employers from finding the right talent they need. A PeopleStrong report reveals that it is not about the lack of job opportunities that is plaguing the market, but lack of availability of skilled candidates that is causing the concern. The report states that two out of three job seekers do not meet the Job provider’s requirements and hence are not considered fit for the jobs available.

Domain specific knowledge is also lacking in the industry. For example, although companies are talking about Big Data,­ in reality there is a significant shortage of skilled professionals in this sector - who can truly be called Data Scientists, who can evaluate business needs and impact and write the algorithms and program platforms such as Hadoop, believe analysts.

Udayan Bose, CEO of analytics solutions firm NetElixir believes management and engineering curriculums are still designed keeping in mind the technology and business trends of 90s. Digital marketing, analytics, e-commerce should be part of every technology and MBA curriculum to reduce this gap.

[Read: Data pros, it's time for a skill up with analytics!]

According to a Randstad survey, job requirements have become very challenging with around 90% of the employees opining that job requirements will become even more demanding in the next 5 years. Experts believe companies need to work more closely with education and training institutions to give job-seekers and students more experiential opportunities that can help them develop the skills employers want and need.