By Tim Dupree
It’s no secret that across the country and here in Southeast Michigan employers are feeling the effects of the talent shortage and a widening skills gap. The structural issues that gave rise to this challenge existed well before the pandemic but have accelerated since: an aging workforce, inequitable access to careers, and fewer adults enrolling in education beyond high school. These issues have been further complicated by a labor force participation rate that continues to hover near historic lows.
Rebuilding and strengthening our talent pipeline requires expanding access to training and upskilling opportunities that align with the needs of employers and help workers acquire transferable skills.
We don’t have time to waste. We’re now at a critical juncture in the labor market with employers in desperate need of a highly skilled workforce and workers needing new skills to grow their careers.
Employers Must Take Skills-Based Approach
To help both employers and job seekers thrive, we must abandon the outdated notion that a four-year degree is the only pathway to success. While higher education is a driver for prosperity, we should not undervalue alternative credentials and on-the-job experience. We can reduce equity and skills gaps by improving access to two-year degrees, industry certifications, and apprenticeships, and we can solve talent attraction challenges by removing outdated degree requirements.
In today’s competitive labor market, employers must take a skills-based approach to talent management. Continuous learning that takes place on the job is critical to developing and retaining talent that drives innovation and growth. Companies must clearly define the skills they need within their workforce and build development programs around these competencies.
At Kelly, we’ve found these opportunities are a difference maker when it comes to attracting qualified and motivated talent. More than 80% of our contingent workers told us they consider job training and career advancement opportunities when evaluating a new position. But only about half of employers offer skills training or development programs, according to a SHRM survey, and contingent workers, who represent an estimated 40% of the U.S. workforce, are often excluded from these opportunities.
Upskilling and Training are Priorities at Kelly
That’s why we launched the Kelly Certification Institute, which offers programs to upskill and retrain workers. We’ve developed an apprenticeship program that combines on-the-job-learning with technical education and connects companies with industrial talent looking to grow their careers. We also offer training and certifications to contingent workers interested in scientific and clinical positions and connect them with clients in need of highly specialized workers. We’ve issued more than 1,750 certifications to date.
In addition, we’ve launched a GED academy to help talent pass state exams, and are collaborating with clients like ICU Medical who have dropped high school diploma requirements for these candidates so they can earn a living while obtaining their GED. We’re also partnering with Google on career certificates and have joined the Detroit Apprenticeship Network to develop best practices.
We do these things because our clients demand creative solutions to tackle the talent shortage and because we know that access to alternative, high-value credentials can change lives. Investing in alternative pathways and credentials of value identified by the Detroit Regional Chamber will not only close the skills gap and make employers in Southeast Michigan more competitive, it will improve social and economic mobility throughout the region.
Tim Dupree is president of Kelly Professional and Industrial.