Paula Burkes, business writer for NewsOK, interviewed Karen Youngblood, executive director of the University of Central Oklahoma’s Customized Education Department about business needs in 2018. The top answer? Closing the skills gap, which is important to our workforce and our economy.
Q: What are you hearing from businesses about their workforce needs in 2018?
A: Oklahoma businesses are growing and seeking to hire, but they struggle to find quality, skilled candidates. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics, commonly referred to as STEM, are fields where we see the largest deficiencies. State officials refer to this as the state skills gap and predict it will get worse by 2025. We also have a shortage of soft skills, sometimes called applied skills or people skills. Punctuality, adaptability, dependability and being a team player are the soft skills employers seek most.
Q: Why is closing the skills gap important?
A: Our economy suffers when we don't have workers to fill jobs. We have companies in Oklahoma that can't find the employees they need. Instead, they bring skilled labor in from other states or they move their business out of state entirely.
Q: What should a business do if it has an employee with excellent technical skills but shows up late or argues with co-workers?
A: Finding skilled employees is already difficult and expensive, so companies want to avoid firing qualified team members due to a lack of soft skills. This is a common problem for businesses. A recent LinkedIn study revealed almost 60 percent of hiring managers have difficulty finding candidates with soft skills. The good news is soft skills can be taught, just like science or math. Businesses can send staff to workforce development training to refine their people skills.