Tuition Assistance Provides Skills Gap Solutions

The skills gap and worker shortages are dilemmas for businesses. New, unfamiliar technologies and lack of training are problems that workers face. The solutions for these problems are close at hand for both businesses and employees, by using available resources.

Increase diversity through hiring and retention
Often employers who worry about a skills gap aren’t tapping and retaining all their current sources of talent, says Deborah Munster, executive director of Diversity Best Practices. Take a look at your employees – all your employees. Consider work populations that may often be overlooked. Diverse minority, gender and age populations create business teams that reflect the changing demographics of the general population and increase the talent pool for finding new hires. There is also evidence showing that diversity is good for business. Diverse teams are more productive, innovative and more engaged in their work. Raising the education and skill levels of current diverse employees will help retain qualified employees and go a long way toward closing the skills gap.

Set skills expectations for employees and managers
The responsibility for closing the skills gap belongs to everyone. Create an environment where employees are expected to acquire the new skills they need to do their jobs and prepare for the future. Reward employees who advance their higher education, and earn new credentials. Include training and education in employee evaluations. Set expectations that supervisors will make employee development a priority and guide workers toward training and education that will close the skills gap. Make this part of supervisor job descriptions.

Increase productivity and retain employees through education
It is important to equip employees with skills that teach them to work with fast changing technologies and market demands. The Workmonitor report from Randstad says that 67 percent of employees believe they need more training to stay current or prepare for future needs. “There are many things companies can do to help their employees’ upskill and prepare for jobs of the future. It is in a company’s best interest to help their people grow in their profession or into leadership roles, as this can offset the severe skills gap happening in the market and increase employee engagement and retention,” says Michelle Prince, Ranstad’s global head of learning and development. “Employees who are given opportunities to continually advance their professional proficiency are what will keep a company relevant and stay ahead of the competition.”

Increase Employee security and retention
Not only will employee education help close the skills gap, it will increase employee security and positively influence employee retention. A survey from the America Psychological Association says, “Nearly half of American workers are concerned about the changing nature of work, and although most report that they have the skills they need to perform their current job well, those without supervisor support for career development are more likely to distrust their employer and plan on leaving within the next year.” Tuition assistance plans will provide necessary training as they build employee trust and close the skills gap.

Assist with education expenses
In 2017, tuition raised more than 30 percent of education revenue for 28 states, according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) association’s annual State Higher Education report. If education revenue depends so greatly on tuition, higher education costs will continue to rise, making it difficult for adult learners to advance their education. Robert Anderson, president of SHEEO says, “The reliance on tuition dollars most adversely impacts our historically underserved populations. To develop the talent needed to meet workforce demands and grow their economies, states must find a way to balance the scale so that their higher education systems are not disproportionately dependent on the hardworking American people and families who can least afford it.” Employer tuition assistance programs are one way to ease the burden on individuals and help them gain the education and training they need to be able to close the skills gap.

Tuition assistance programs can and will help close the skills gap when they are used strategically. Educating diverse employee populations increases the opportunities for all employees to gain necessary skills. Businesses can retain employees that are equipped to close the skills gap. “While there are many uncertainties about the future of work, one thing is sure: Adapting to a rapidly changing environment requires a strategic approach to training and development,” says David Ballard, head of APA’s Center of Organizational Excellence. “It’s the best way to ensure that employees can see what is possible, solve previously intractable problems, and do the work that will lead to a prosperous future.”