Strategies for companies
A skills gap analysis is essential if an organisation is to understand what skills it currently has, the skills it requires, and if it is to have any chance of planning skills development for future needs.
When it comes to employing new skills, the shortage of appropriate candidates means that companies need to make their employment offers stand out if they want to attract the best possible people. Competitive remuneration is a good start, but flexibility in hours and work location can also play a major role. Other factors that may tip a candidate’s decision in a given direction include the ability to work with leading technologies, access to mentors, training courses or an allowance of time for external study, and the very nature of the work challenge.
To increase skills levels among existing employees, companies should encourage study by offering incentives such as bonuses, co-payment of course fees and/or the offer of study time for approved courses.
Contractors help manage the workload
Encouraging staff to undertake additional training almost inevitably brings change to work hours and workloads due to employee time being diverted to classes, study or exams. Organisations will need to accommodate the changes (within reason), and this is where project contractors (referred to as independent professionals or IPros by Entity Solutions) can help.
IPros provide an overflow workforce that is available to step in when employees are engaged in training. Whether the employee is attending a one-off private course or chooses ongoing study at a tertiary institution, the IPro can be there for the duration to ensure none of the day-to-day work suffers.
A well-chosen IPro will also bring new expertise in systems, methodologies or practices. When this is the case, rather than leaving it to chance, the employer should consider how best to capitalise on the expertise, perhaps by formalising a skills transfer or mentoring role as part of the contracting relationship. Such an arrangement adds value and challenge for the IPro at the same time as benefiting employees and the employer.
Specialised help when needed
One of the biggest problems facing employers right now is the loss of senior employees due to retirement. These are the employees who may have several decades’ worth of experience and knowledge about the company, its clients and the industry. They are people who can’t easily be replaced, especially by a new graduate.
Once again, a seasoned IPro can help fill the gap, guiding the remaining staff until they are ready to operate as a functional team on their own. In some instances, IPros provide mentoring to the chosen successor, helping the person to gain the confidence and experience that will allow them to grow into the role.
In the years to come, industry groups and governments will continue to refine their ideas on how to best address the STEM skills gap. New incentives will emerge to encourage students to take up studies in STEM. The way we teach these subjects will change due to increased industry input. And hopefully, we will see a growing number of STEM graduates coming out of Australia’s tertiary institutions.
Until that time however, businesses need to plan more actively for the skills they wish to acquire and develop. They will need to invest directly in education and training of their staff, and they will need to find new, flexible and creative ways to fulfil their workforce needs. As they do so, experienced IPros are likely to become an important part of the skills development solution.