Company NewsMay 23, 2024

Is technology creating a skills gap or closing one?

Rapid technological innovation is fueling a skills gap by making expertise outdated, but it’s also enabling the ability to ovecrome such a gap.
Avatar Shoshana Kranish

In today’s rapidly evolving job market, the mismatch between the skills job seekers possess and those employers need is widening, creating significant hurdles for both parties. This phenomenon, known as the skills gap, is becoming increasingly prevalent across various industries, exacerbated by the swift pace of technological progress. As technology forges ahead, transforming the way we work and the nature of jobs available, both the workforce and employers are finding it challenging to keep pace.

Despite the ease with which we can acquire knowledge today, the breadth and depth of information out there keep growing. There’s a perfect storm brewing: workers are expected to be experts on existing technology while also mastering emerging tools and programs that make their expertise outdated. 

This phenomenon has produced a noticeable skills gap. And that gap is not a problem of the future, but a pressing issue of the present, with far-reaching consequences for individuals, companies and entire industries. From manufacturing to healthcare, from information technology to agriculture, nearly all fields are feeling the impact of this skills shortage. 

What exactly is the skills gap? 

Nowadays, the market works like this: employers require individuals with expertise in something specific, yet they’re unable to find candidates that fit their needs. But the problem is deeper than this – there are skilled workers out there, but the skills they have are quickly becoming out of date. 

Engineers with 20 years of experience in their field are considered highly skilled in most regards, but their expertise will be considered outdated if they’re in an industry that’s attempting digital transformation and needs AI and machine-learning masters. An electrical engineer might be in high demand, but one with decades of work in hardware, not software, won’t fit the bill. 

There’s a gap between what the market demands and what the workforce offers. Analyses of the skills gap indicate it’s more than just a fear, but a true trend. A 2021 McKinsey survey found that nearly 90% of companies have noticed such a skills gap or expect one to crop up in the next few years.

Industries impacted most by the skills gap 

The skills gap phenomenon began during the COVID-19 pandemic, and its effects are now being felt. A Deloitte study from 2021 identified the manufacturing industry as one of the most impacted by this trend; they predicted by 2030 the industry will have more than 2 million unfilled jobs due to the inability to find properly skilled workers. The employees previously filling those jobs – like inspectors, machinery mechanics or welders – worked with their hands and physical tools, but current demands require those skill sets to be significantly more technological in nature. An inspector needs to use AI for quality control, a mechanic needs to be able to power predictive maintenance programming, and even a welder needs to have a handle on robotics to be competitive in the job market. Lacking individuals to fill positions like these, which require both technical and technological expertise, impacts productivity, output and, eventually, economic viability. 

In recent years, manufacturing has become more technological in nature, offering high-tech positions where blue-collar ones once existed. But even so, the requirements for white-collar jobs are increasing, and employers are struggling to find candidates who fit them. Today, there are expectations that potential employees be well-versed in a variety of tools and programs, from model-based systems engineering (MBSE) to electronic design automation to machine learning, virtual twin technology, robotics and more. Leveraging these types of tools can enable a manufacturing operation to run at peak capacity, producing optimal output within designed timeframes that pertain to consumer demands and industry standards. But that only works when there’s a pool of employees or candidates who can effectively use those programs in order to achieve specific goals.

Jobs like welding and inspecting in the manufacturing industry are becoming more technological in nature - skills gap - Dassault Systemes blog

Across all industries, new norms are being implemented that have the potential to expand the skills gap. Mechanical engineers, for example, are considered competitive in the job market if they’ve got mastery of computer-aided design programs like SOLIDWORKS, but this software isn’t often taught in schools. Artificial intelligence, the most innovative emerging field, demands expertise in a field that hasn’t even been fully developed yet. The same problem presents across the board, from areas like cloud computing to agriculture, telecoms to healthcare. The increased interest and reliance on new technologies in every industry highlight the need for educational adaptation both in school and outside it to prepare individuals to be competitive candidates and competent employees as the professional landscape shifts digitally.

Closing the gap: A multi-pronged approach 

Ensuring that today’s skill gap closes – and doesn’t open again – requires a concerted, collaborative effort from universities, private sector companies and even the government. 

Academia and industry have a significant opportunity to achieve this mission. Schools can form advisory boards made up of individuals from different fields who can best suggest how to develop and regularly adapt curricula to fit existing needs. Guest lectures and courses taught by industry professionals, rather than professors, can bring necessary expertise otherwise missing from college campuses. Partnerships between businesses and schools can provide apprenticeship, co-op or internship opportunities that can best prepare students for the job market.  

For those entering the workforce without a college degree, learning opportunities should be abundant, too. Local governments have the opportunity to create vocational programs that will train workers. Expanding technical school offerings to include industry-specific courses will close the gap by ensuring entry-level professionals have the tools they need to succeed. 

Private sector companies have a responsibility, too, both to their own employees and to the ones they hope to hire. Developing collaborative learning opportunities between current and potential employees enhances a company’s likelihood to create and draw from a skilled pool of applicants. Dassault Systemes’ Centers of Excellence aim to fill a gap here, offering hands-on experiential learning environments around the globe for students and professionals alike. The centers, the first of which opened in 2021, now boast 19 locations worldwide, focusing on various markets and industries, from automotive to aerospace to energy and beyond. They’re outfitted with cutting-edge machinery and tools, as well as training on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, which professionals of all fields can leverage. The company also offers highly discounted software programs of some of its most popular offerings, like SOLIDWORKS, to students during their studies. Doing so literally puts necessary tools in the hands of future professionals, providing exceptional preparation and the opportunity to get ahead in their careers. 

Hands-on learning opportunities can be helpful in closing the skills gap - Dassault Systemes blog

Beyond programs like these, employers can encourage their workers to develop necessary skills both on a case-by-case basis or on a company-wide scale. Audi, for example, is dedicating a budget of nearly $5.5 million to train its workers to be able to hit targets to scale their EV offerings. Many companies, like Dassault Systèmes, offer internal courses for employees to expand their knowledge and allocate budgets for employees to explore external learning opportunities to acquire necessary skills. 

A new approach to shape the future  

Embracing the future means not only recognizing the pace at which technology moves but also adapting learning and professional development strategies to keep up. By leveraging new technologies, educational programs, and experiential learning opportunities, it’s possible to  bridge the skills gap between current skills and the ones that may be necessary tomorrow. 

Doing so can enable industries to thrive in an increasingly competitive and technology-driven world. The journey ahead requires a collective effort from educational institutions, companies, and individuals themselves to invest in continuous learning and skill development. By doing so, we can ensure that we’re not only prepared for the future but also actively shaping it to our advantage.

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