The New-Hire Skills Gap: Is It Really a “Thing”?

Posted on by Denise James

Headlines in workforce news have been confusing lately: “Employers Aren’t Just Whining – the Skills Gap Is Real!” (Harvard Business Review); “Why the Skills Gap Does Not Exist” (Inc.); and “Can We Fix the Skills Gap?” (Forbes).

Well, I hate to put it this way, but when “they” are talking about the skills gap, they are talking about you. Yes, you the new hire, you the intern, you the first-time professional, you the younger generation.

This likely comes as a shock to the generation who earned trophies just for showing up in life, but the data doesn’t lie: 39 percentof those 25 and younger are unemployed or underemployed according to Forbes. Why is this (perhaps, your) generation struggling to get a proper foothold in the workplace?

So why is this a “thing”?

  • Some blame what the student learned in college — the degree was in a saturated market, the content did not keep pace with current practices, the program/degree was a poor fit for the student.
  • Some blame how the student learned it — too much theory and not enough practice; no theory underpinning practice; not enough critical thinking or innovative problem solving.
  • Some blame the student’s personal preparation — he/she lacks experience in general; he/she lacks well-roundedness; he/she lacks drive or initiative; he/she lacks confidence; he/she has too much confidence!
  • Some blame the employers — employers are too picky; employers are not willing to develop people like they once were; employers use impersonal online application processes that rule out the “diamonds in the rough”; employers may not even have a realistic idea of who/what they are seeking (i.e., seeking the “rainbow unicorn” of new hires).

So if we accept that there is at least the perception of a skills gap with at least some employers, there must be something that new hires can do about it!

So, what can you do about it?

The good news is that you can do something about this! You can overcome the “Skills Gap” by:

  • Broadening your experiences through Polk State opportunities such as volunteering, community service, and involvement in student activities, Student Government, and clubs of interest.
  • Achieving excellence through the Honors Program.
  • Enhancing your skills through training, certifications, and development available through your program and/or the Polk State Corporate College.
  • Maximizing your skills in key areas of desirability, such as: technology/computer skills, foreign language, customer service savviness, public speaking, and top-notch writing.
  • Developing global skills through study-abroad trips, international internships, and by completing the Global Studies Certificate.
  • Building your career skills through Career Services via career planning, resume development, interview practice and career workshops and events.
  • And developing your professional image through internships, co-ops, and working with a career mentor.
  • You don’t have to do it all, or all at once! Pick one of these to pursue each term and you will bridge the skills gap!

Not sure where to start?

Whether you know exactly what you want to do with your career, or you’re still exploring your options, make use of our new POD opportunities (Professional Observation Days) in order to visit desired worksites and interview potential employers. Complete a POD series in your career field or areas of interest so that you can learn more about the particular workforce needs, how the job and site fit you and vice versa, and specifically what you need to do to close the skills gap in order to be among the 61 percent of professionally employed new hires (and not the 39 percent who are not)!

For more information on PODs or on how you can bridge the skills gap, contact Career or Internship Services: Jennifer Schneider – Winter Haven –, Pairris Jones – Lakeland –; or Lynn Chisholm, Internship Coordinator –