How St. Louis Companies Are Closing the Skills Gap

By on August 8, 2012
How St. Louis Companies Are Closing the Skills Gap

In 2012, the State of the St. Louis Workforce report again shows a persistent skills gap in the region’s workforce. One in three St. Louis-area companies anticipate an increase in employment levels in the near term, but those employers continue to find mismatches between job applicant skills and the job requirements for open positions.

This gap is a consistent challenge faced by companies across the country, as the fast pace of change in the global economy requires new and expanded skill sets for employees. In a recent study, the Lumina Foundation accurately states the need for an increase in the number of adults with education beyond high school and improved skills in mathematics, science and digital literacy.

But top employers in our region continue to find new and creative ways to overcome the skills gap to fill open positions. The insights from the six case studies in the State of St. Louis Workforce report shows how companies can begin to overcome their challenges, and find qualified applicants with both technical skills and soft skills.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Train current employees so they advance their skills and move up within the organization:
    During the past ten years, Bethesda Health Group has reduced their turnover for certified nursing assistants (CNA) from 100 percent to less than 25 percent. Bethesda offers excellent educational/training benefits, and focuses on growing and developing talent. As a result, employees have started as CNAs and progressed on their career path to licensed practical nurses and registered nurses.
    Edward Jones focuses on serving individual investors and building long-term client relationships. Given this approach, the company looks for experienced professionals who will stay for a long period. To keep their employees’ skills at a high level, Edward Jones has a comprehensive learning management system with 70 percent on-the-job training, 20 percent coaching/mentoring/supervisor feedback and 10 percent course training.
  • Develop a peer-to-peer training program: Gateway EDI has increased employment nearly 30 percent over of the past two years and will likely reach 500 employees by the end of 2012. Due to rapid growth, the company is facing hiring challenges in a number of keys areas, especially in information technology and client service. In response, the company created a peer-to-peer training program that improves the skills necessary to be successful and reinforces the importance of continuous improvement.
  • Focus on selling the advantages of living in the St. Louis region to applicants from outside the area: Boeing, one of the region’s biggest employers, faces challenges finding engineering talent and often recruits from outside the region. At times, St. Louis can be a difficult sell to younger workers, but once they see the quality of life offered here it’s difficult for the company to get employees to transfer to other locations. Boeing has created marketing campaigns to attract younger workers to the area. It’s been an effective strategy for the company; once an employee reaches the five-year mark, they are likely to remain with Boeing for their entire professional career.

You can read the rest of the case studies in the 2012 State of St. Louis Workforce report.

While the skills gap in St. Louis is one of our most persistent workforce challenges, there are many ways for companies to help create the ideal job candidate when they can’t always find it in the current labor pool.

To learn more about how Workforce Solutions Group helps companies create customized training programs to update their employees’ skills, please read more about our St. Louis Contract Training and Consulting programs.

About Richard Schumacher

Richard Schumacher is the technology manager for the Workforce Solutions Group of St. Louis Community College. He connects, designs, and applies technology to meet business user needs with eLearning, training, web content, instructional design, IT system, and performance improvement solutions. Richard has held various Microsoft Certifications since 1993. Learn more about Richard by following him: LinkedIn - Twitter - Articles - Email