Job-Skills Gap: Real Reasons

Employers frequently complain that they can’t increase their workforce because they can’t find enough qualified workers.  But to what extent is there an actual shortage of qualified workers, and to what extent are employers finding it difficult to fill job vacancies because they don’t offer high enough wages and/or are too picky about previous experience?

Skills-Gap ChartAccording to a recent survey of 213 employers by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), for 13 percent of difficult-to-fill vacancies, the surveyed employers said the problem was unattractive wages, hours, location, etc. NOT having too few applicants with the right qualifications.  (DEED, p. 9)  It would be interesting to compare the results from a survey of job applicants.

Employers may be contributing to their own difficulties in filling jobs by unrealistic experience requirements and unwillingness to provide on-the-job training.  The DEED report noted that “when questioned about the types of experience they were looking for, employers often cited specific skills and background that were missing as a result of not enough (or the wrong type of) work experience. The lacking skills were more frequently those that could be learned on the job, not necessarily through a training program.” (DEED, p.13)

The DEED report also shows that reasons for jobs being hard to fill vary by occupation.  The employer survey revealed that among difficult-to-fill nursing jobs, lack of required skills was the main factor in only 18% of the cases, while 26% was due to unattractive wages and hours. (DEED, Fig. 11)

When looking at hard-to-fill job vacancies in the skilled production occupations, the surveyed employers reported that 51% of the problem was due to skill deficiencies, while in 49% of the cases low wages, unattractive hours, and lack of requested experience (often 3 years requested) were a contributing factor.  (DEED, Fig 13)

“There’s really no way around it.  They are really going to have to step up and make these occupations a little more attractive to people and also provide some on-the-job training,” according to one DEED spokesman (as quoted in the Star Tribune).


  • Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), “Hiring Difficulties in Minnesota,”  March 2013.  Download PDF here.
  • Dee DePass, “Study demystifies job-skills gap,” Star Tribune, March 8, 2013, p. D1-2.
  • Chart from Chris Newmarker, “Report: Minnesota skills gap?  Not so much (Update), Finance & Commerce, March 7, 2013.  Online here.

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