Although TV shows and online games makes light of the fact that U.S. adults struggle with basic elementary school concepts, the serious reality is that the chasm between the skills U.S. workers possess and the skills required for open jobs is wide, getting wider and may be partially to blame for the nation’s high unemployment.

In a September 2010 interview, former president Bill Clinton noted that “for the first time in my lifetime — and I'm not young...we are coming out of a recession but job openings are going up twice as fast as new hires. And yet, we can all cite cases that we know about where somebody opened a job and 400 people showed up. How could this be? Because people don't have the job skills for the jobs that are open.”

Speaking on “Good Morning America” several weeks ago, Clinton went even further on the severity of the nation’s skills gap, saying that if there were skilled employees for every open position, U.S. unemployment could be as much as 2% lower than the 9.2% it is today.

At the Society for Human Resource Management national conference earlier this summer, HR communications consultant Laurie Ruetimann noted today’s HR/benefits managers “aren’t hiring people as smart as they used to be.”

In an attempt to help employers bridge the skills gap, EBN later this year will convene a roundtable of benefits professionals, authors and other workforce experts to discuss the reasons the skills gap persists and strategies for employers to overcome it.

If you, a colleague or client would like to participate, please email me at kelley.butler@sourcemedia.com. Meantime, share your thoughts in the comments about the role benefits practitioners can play in helping the nation can overcome the skills gap.

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