Allen MirelesToday’s guest post is by Allen Mireles.

Google the phrase “skills  gaps” and you come up with enough reading material to keep you busy for hours.

And it’s not all happy news.

Industries ranging from manufacturing and construction to IT and technology are expressing grave concerns about their abilities to find talent with the required skills to fill available jobs.

According to a report published by Manpower, emerging trends put unprecedented value on talent as the driver of business success.

Yet skills gaps exist in most industries today. Skills shortages are forecast around the globe, and, in a special report published by The Economist, executives surveyed have expressed unease about the affect these shortages will have on world economies.

More than half of survey respondents describe a lack of creativity, adaptability, and developed interpersonal communication skills among prospective employees. The absence of these “soft skills” is as problematic as missing technical or industry expertise.

What Are Skills Gaps?

The phrase “skills gaps”  is used to describe a mismatch between the high-level skills required and the skill levels of the available workforce. Skills gaps are one factor used to explain the current level of unemployment in the United States, while industries such as manufacturing struggle desperately to fill available jobs.

In a report published in 2011, Deloitte researchers William D. Eggers and John Hagel concluded the United States is badly lagging behind other leading industrialized nations in developing workers with the skills necessary to fit the changing workplace.

Among their findings:

  • The skills college students attain are out of date five years after graduation.
  • About two-thirds of manufacturers say there is a shortage of available and qualified workers; 56 percent say the shortage is going to get worse in the next three to five years, and about 600,000, or five percent, of jobs remain unfilled “due to a lack of qualified candidates.”
  • The problem is exacerbated by an aging workforce, with about 40 million workers 55 and older to be in the employment pool by 2013.

Similar issues are reported in information technology and information security. The “2013 (ISC)² Global Information Security Workforce Study” found that the shortage of skilled information security professionals is having a profound effect on the global economy, leading to more frequent and costly data breaches.

In information security, finding qualified employees means finding those people who have both technical skills and the ability to solve problems and process ideas creatively.

Innovation is Key to Beating Competition

According to new research from Ernst & Young on global jobs creation, more than half of the 600 plus major entrepreneurs surveyed say they expect to increase their work forces in 2013. The study cites the importance of the role of innovation in creating new jobs and advantages over their competition.

Yet these highly successful entrepreneurs describe themselves as being in desperate need of attracting workers with the right skills and talents to fill their positions. Survey respondents stressed the importance of technical expertise but focused on the capacity of the candidate to transform ideas into action and show creative problem solving skills.

Critical Job Skills Needed Today

At the end of 2012, Meghan Casserly of Forbes, wrote a post highlighting critical job skills needed in 2013. These “soft skills” are considered essential and sought after in today’s jobs market:

  • Critical thinking
  • Complex problem solving
  • Judgement and decision making
  • Active listening
  • Monitoring
  • Sales and marketing

Take a moment and run through the list. How do you grade yourself for each skill? Where do you see room for improvement or growth?

As hard as it is to swallow (on those busy days when you can’t imagine how you’ll finish all of the tasks on your list) you may need to work on some of these areas to avoid your own brush with skills gaps.

Adapt or Run the Risk of Becoming Irrelevant

We all know, or work with, someone who isn’t on board with all the change in our industry. For whom the days of lugging the big green Bacon’s media books (those suckers were big and heavy) down from the top shelf at the library are still a fond memory. Who pride themselves on not “getting it” (whatever “it” is).

They can’t help it. They’re stuck, like bugs in amber, in the past. And they run the risk of becoming irrelevant as the world moves past them in a blur of frenetic digital activity.

We all need to adapt to the changes in our industry, in our companies, in our world at large. And that may mean dusting off our complex problems solving skills and working to improve them. Or hauling out the creative thinking cap and really using it – instead of falling back on some formulaic solution that has worked for other clients.

If we don’t adapt, if we don’t add the soft skills to our work experiences and resumes, we could become irrelevant, left behind, and end up another piece of data in a survey about the skills gaps in PR and Marketing being the new normal.

And who wants to be that kind of normal?

Allen Mireles is vice president at Arment Dietrich and is based outside of Toledo. She has diverse expertise in healthcare IT, manufacturing, and education. You can follow her on Twitter at allenmirelesadd her to your circles on G+, link to her on LinkedIn, or friend her on Facebook.