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Accenture Research Shows U.S. Companies Expect Their Demand for Middle-Skills Jobs to Spike

By Rob Starr, Content Manager

New Accenture research shows seventy three percent of U.S. companies expect an increase in their demand for “middle-skills” jobs that generally require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree. The demand is expected to rise over the next few years and 56 percent polled are struggling to find people to fill the existing vacancies.  David Smith, senior managing director Accenture Strategy, Talent & Organization answered some questions for us.

What are “middle-skills” jobs and why is their demand spiking?

Middle-skills positions are usually defined as those positions that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree. Our research takes it a step further and defines the roles as those that offer long-term value to both employers and employees by

David Smith

David Smith

contributing to the success of American companies and also improving the standard of living for the person holding the job. Some examples of middle-skills jobs are: network administrator; computer support specialist; engineering technicians; nursing assistants; and sales representatives.

There are many factors that have contributed to the middle-skills gap. For employers, much of the issue comes down to skills and experience. In many cases, there is a disconnect between the skills and experience a candidate possesses and those needed for a specific role. This is making demand for many middle-skills positions rise as employers struggle to find qualified employees to fill available roles.

The key finding of our survey is that the majority of U.S. companies expect the demand for middle-skills jobs to increase. Specifically, 73 percent of U.S. companies surveyed plan to add more middle-skills positions over the next 2-3 years, though more than half (56 percent) struggle to find people with the right qualifications to fill vacancies.

What are the hardest-hit sectors and consistently hard-to-fill positions?

Our survey showed several industries report having a difficult time filling middle-skills positions, especially Finance/insurance (68%), IT/telcom (55%), healthcare/social assistance (54%), retail (51%) and manufacturing
(49%). In addition, the toughest middle-skill positions to fill include tech (39%), sales representatives (34%), nursing assistants (29%), network administrators (27%), and computer support specialists (21%)

What needs to be done?
The report identifies four main steps that companies can take to improve their talent sourcing, development, deployment and retention cycle.

These steps replicate the way leading companies manage their supply chains. People are not products or spare parts, of course, but thinking in terms of a “talent supply chain” can provide the rigor need to more effectively manage the middle-skills talent pipeline.

  • Map future talent needs. Companies must improve forecasting and planning to understand what positions and skills are most needed by their organization.
  • Build talent pipeline. Companies are missing a valuable opportunity to work with community colleges and technical schools to develop curricula that build the skills and experience needed in their workforces.
  • Develop talent pool relationships. The business community must work with a vast network of partners to establish themselves as “employers of choice” with potential middle-skills job seekers.
  • Reinvigorate talent development. Companies must provide current and prospective employees with access to a variety of ongoing training programs, upskilling opportunities, internships and apprenticeships to create a clear career path for middle-skills employees.

What are the other big takeways here?

The middle-skills gap has a direct impact on corporate performance and productivity. Sixty-nine percent of companies surveyed indicated that the middle-skills shortage affects their performance and more than one-third (34 percent) believe that the dearth of middle-skills workers has undermined their productivity. In order to be successful, businesses must develop a more disciplined process to improve their talent sourcing, development, deployment and retention cycle.

What’s in the future?

Business that are developing a better process to source, develop, deploy and retain middle-skills talent to ensure long-term productivity and a more proactive approach to filling these critical positions will be in a better position to fill middle-skills jobs in the future. This approach would then help those businesses improve performance and productivity.



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