For several years, companies all over the world have faced a common problem – they have difficulties finding qualified workers. The European Company Survey (ECS- 2013) illustrated that nearly every second company in Luxembourg has trouble finding skilled employees. Moreover, the survey showed that this problem mainly concerned the industrial sector (Cedefop 2015). The European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training stated that this penury is primarily caused by unattractive job offers (two thirds of EU companies); the remaining firms face a genuine inability employing qualified workers (Cedefop 2015). Despite the different causes, the consequences are the same. Skill shortage can result in overtime hours, higher turnover, or loss of knowledge (Rod Van Rite 2019). It can also lower the productivity and lead to a loss in competitiveness (Cedefop 2015). These consequences could have a tremendous impact on the organization itself, as well as on the national economy.
Albeit, how can this problem be solved?
The literature suggests different solutions, which could be categorized into three main frames. The first frame focuses on approaches based on the organization’s already existing human resources, by implementing, for instance, policies empowering employees to participate regularly in training programs (Oliver & Turton, 1982). The second frame covers approaches concerning the recruitment; literature therefore suggests that companies cooperate with schools or universities. By offering internships or apprenticeships, the organizations become more visible and attractive and thus recruit new employees (Rod Van Rite 2019). The third frame could be considered as a hybrid of the previous frames. These approaches could avoid that companies lose their valuable human capital and help them generate new one, for example by creating a healthy work environment or attractive job offers.
Offering an internship or an apprenticeship could be a cost-efficient measure with many accompanied advantages (second frame) (HR Booth Ltd N.G.). For instance, they allow organizations to observe potential employees in action and to separate in advance the wheat from the chaff. Moreover, employees who have previously interned at a company tend to stay longer. This could be beneficial, because it might be more reasonable for organizations to invest in potentially longstanding employees by offering them trainings. With these trainings, the employees are tailored to the organization’s specific needs, which could help the company bind its skilled workers. Lastly, by offering internships or apprenticeships, the companies give something back to the community. Hiring interns could reduce the unemployment rate and strengthen the workforce of the local area. This could positively impact the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility strategy.
It might not only be valuable cooperating with schools or universities but also with training centres, such as the Centre Formida. These institutions take in young unemployed people with different levels of education and competences. These young adults participate in different programs, where their skills are evaluated and strengthened or new ones developed. If needed, these institutions (e.g. Centre Formida) can also support companies by providing them with manpower; educators will accompany and supervise the apprentices. These educators are specially trained and could build a bridge between the young adults and the organization, which could be highly beneficial for both. By cooperating with these institutions, companies might be able to find longstanding employees in which it is worth investing (e.g. trainings) and to overcome the shortage of skilled workers. The effectiveness of this approach can be illustrated through several examples, such as Philipe’s story. Philipe joined our program with a CCP training course, with the intention of becoming a travel agent. However, due to his lack of language skills, this was impossible. We started to look for alternatives by assessing his skills and by working intensively with him. After a few months, we arranged for an internship at a cooperating company, the bakery subsidiary PAUL. The bakery was highly satisfied with Philipe’s work and after several weeks, the company offered him an apprenticeship, which he gratefully accepted.
In order to cope with skilled workforce shortage, it might be useful to bring these three frames together to see the bigger picture. To find new talents, organizations might need to cooperate with specific institutions, schools and universities and offer internships and apprenticeships. Moreover, organizations should be more actively involved in upskilling their potential longstanding employees. It might be time to change the paradigm of “I hire what I need” to “I train what I need”. However, it is also important to reduce the turnover and to avoid the loss of knowledge by creating a healthy work environment and offering adequate job opportunities.
Cedefop (2015). Skill shortages and gaps in European enterprises: striking a balance between vocational education and training and the labour market. Luxembourg: Publications Office. Cedefop reference series; No 102. http://dx.doi.org/10.2801/042499
HR Booth Ltd (N.G.) The value of internships to employer and employee. Scotland, United Kingdom. HR Booth Ltd. https://www.thehrbooth.co.uk/blog/recruitment/the-value-of-internships-to-employer-and-employee/
Jeffrey A. Joerres (2012). Lack of skills is a serious problem for companies. New York; USA: Nytimes.com. https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/07/09/does-a-skills-gap-contribute-to-unemployment/lack-of-skills-is-a-serious-problem-for-companies
Rod Van Rite (2019). How the skilled labor shortage is impacting manufacturers. Wisconsin; USA: MCL Industries, Inc. https://www.mcl.bz/blog/skilled-labor-shortage-will-impact-manufacturers
Oliver, J., & Turton, J. (1982). Is there a shortage of skilled labour?. British Journal Of Industrial Relations, 20(2), 195-200. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8543.1982.tb00097.x