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Joe Klocko: The skills gap — not the only challenge

Entrepreneur’s Corner

Posted: July 10, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 10, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Joe Klocko Joe Klocko
Joe Klocko

I once had a drawing that depicted a few individuals with quizzical looks on their faces and a tag line that read “I appreciate the problem but, unfortunately, I do not have a solution”.

Such is the nature of this column. So, I am considering this column a call to arms to raise the issue in the consciousness of today’s employers and employees in hopes that, by doing so, attitudes can change and solutions can be formulated.

Much has been written about the skills gap and how, in an era of still high unemployment rates, hundreds of thousands of jobs remain unfilled because companies cannot find individuals with the skills sets needed in today’s globally competitive economy.

But the skills gap is not the only issue. In fact, in a recent national survey conducted by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, over 1,100 executives responded to the question: “What are the most serious skill deficiencies in your current employees?”

Their top three responses were: inadequate problem-solving skill (52 percemt); lack of basic technical training (43 percent); and inadequate basic employability skills (40 percent).

So the skills gap (lack of basic technical training) is still high on the priority list. However, and to my surprise, this survey showed that inadequate math, reading and writing skills ranked lower in the survey than did demonstrating basic employability skills.

So what are basic employability skills? After reviewing numerous articles and studies on the topic, some common factors mentioned in a broad range of publications are: attendance and punctuality, work ethic, honesty and integrity and displaying a sense of team spirit/teamwork.

According to the 2013 nationwide study on the state of professionalism in the workplace conducted by the Center for Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania, poor attendance and a lack of punctuality is the predominant reason for new college graduates being fired. This reason was cited by 58 percent of the study respondents.

So clearly, if not intuitively, attendance and punctuality are key drivers of performance. So let’s probe a little deeper on work ethic and factors that impact management perception of employee work ethic.

According to the same Center for Professional Excellence study, nearly 45 percent of survey participants reported that the work ethic has declined. An equal number feel it has remained constant, leaving only 10 percent who feel it has improved.

Survey respondents who felt that work ethic has deteriorated were asked for their belief as to the cause of the decline.

The most frequently cited reason was having too causal of an attitude towards work (86.6 percent).

Four other behaviors that were commonly noted as causes of diminished work ethic were: not being self-driven (71.5 percent); lack of ownership of one’s work (69.3 percent); not understanding what hard work is (65.9 percent); and willingness to do work that is less than professional quality (59.8 percent).

Also, when responding to their belief on how professionalism should change in the future, 74 percent indicated that they agree or strongly agree that new employees need to change to meet manager’s expectations and not vice versa. Similarly, 70 percent believe that the definitions of professionalism should not change.

So what should be your takeaway from all this?

Clearly the ability to perform the requirements of a position is the number one factor in one’s success in any job. However, and ranking a close second for perceived performance excellence, are the “hows” of doing one’s job; the so called employability factors.

So to assure long-term career success, be aware of your employability skills and make a determined effort to improve yours if needed. Your success, as well as the success of your company, is inextricably intertwined in how well you perform in this soft skill set.

Joe Klocko is the director of the Centers for Applied Competitive Technologies hosted by College of the Canyons. Mr. Klocko’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. For more information about how the college’s CACT and Employee Training Institute can help your business, please call 661-362-3112, email [email protected] or visit



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