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One Gap That’s Bigger Than the Generation Gap


For years, I’ve been privileged to talk to employers, coaches, parents, and teachers about the gap that exists between adults and “Generation iY” (the kids born since 1990). It’s called a “generation gap,” and it’s nothing new. Adults experienced it in the 1960s when the Baby Boomers were growing up. After careful reading, however, it seems I’ve found an even larger gap that exists today. Social scientists call it: the skills gap. Employers call it: trouble. Young job seekers can’t seem to bridge the chasm between the skills they possess and the needs of U.S. employers. There is no shortage of research proving a huge skills gap exists. But its surprising to see how big these gaps are. Below are highlights from Lorri Freifeld, from

We Can’t Find People for Key Positions

ManpowerGroup’s Talent Shortage Survey revealed 49 percent of U.S. employers are experiencing difficulty filling mission-critical positions within their companies. According to the 1,300 U.S. employers surveyed, the positions that are most difficult to fill revolve around STEM majors (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

Schools Don’t Prepare Students for the Jobs We Have Available

According to the 2012 IBM Tech Trends Report, only 1 in 10 organizations have the skills needed to utilize advanced technologies such as cloud and mobile computing, social business, and business analytics. Even more alarming, says Jim Spohrer, director of IBM University Programs, “is that nearly half of the educators and students indicated major gaps in their institution’s ability to meet IT skill needs.”

We Need to Double the Pace We are Producing College Graduates

According to McKinsey’s The World at Work report, advanced economies will need to double the pace at which young people are earning college degrees and graduate more students in science, engineering, and other technical fields. The McKinsey report found that even with preventative measures, there could be 20 to 23 million workers in advanced economies without the skills employers will need by 2020.

The Lack of Skilled Workers is Killing Our Economy

Some 38 percent of 1,648 employers reported they currently have positions for which they can’t find qualified candidates, according to CareerBuilder’s “Talent Crunch” study. One-third (34 percent) reported job vacancies have resulted in a lower quality of work due to employees being overworked, 23 percent cited a loss in revenue, 33 percent of employers said vacancies have caused lower morale, and 17 percent pointed to higher turnover in their organizations. Research from DeVry University, found only 17 percent of 516 hiring managers said that job seekers have the skills and traits their organization is looking for in a candidate.

Three Simple Conclusions… 

1. Many of the students who drop out of high school or college do so because they find it irrelevant for their future, not because they lack intelligence. Nationwide, about three in ten students fail to complete high school; about half quit college.

2. Schools must focus even more on providing education that meets the demands of tomorrow’s society. Recently, two teachers suggested that education today is at the same place the Roman Catholic Church was at the time of the Reformation. Reform is coming and consumers will tend to migrate toward relevant places to learn.

3. Students must look hard to find educational institutions that prepare them for the future jobs that await them. While I believe in a four-year liberal arts education, it isn’t for everyone, especially if it fails to prep you for life after college. Students must not settle for just any school, since jobs are not guaranteed. Choose wisely.

National Leadership Forum 2013

I am extremely excited about this year’s National Leadership Forum on June 27-28th in Atlanta. If you haven’t registered already, we still have tables left. Grab your colleagues and sign up for a table at:

Our theme is: “Marching Off the Map” and we’ll be looking at where education is going in the next ten years. Our speaker line-up is our strongest ever and the ideas you’ll receive will change the way you engage students.

Hope to see you there!


  1. Bill on May 6, 2013 at 7:52 am

    I think there needs to be a greater differentiation made over vocational/certificate training and prototypical college. Secondary education is first and foremost and industry, we need to learn to be consumers of the product they offer, not just lovers of their swag factor.

    The goal should be that within 1-2 years of leaving high school most students can be employable in a skilled job. Others may pursue higher education, but currently we are wasting those first two years of post-high school education.

    • Tim Elmore on May 6, 2013 at 1:34 pm

      Interesting perspective, Bill. Thanks for contributing to the discussion!

  2. Brian Musser on May 6, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    I do think that there has been a drastic change with employers on this level as well. Because employee movement is so great, employers are no longer willing to invest employing training and development. They expect new employees to have the skills they need to enter the job and produce efficiently immediately.
    However; no two organization use technology the same way. We have students that co-op at a major industrial giant for 6 months and then have to relearn how to use technology at their first job experience after college not because of a lack of proficiency but because either the tech has changed or the in house procedures for that tech is drastically different.
    If this gap continues, I think you will find more direct partnership between corporations and universities or a complete in house process for education by corporations. If the gap persists the business world will find a way to solve it.

    • Tim Elmore on May 6, 2013 at 1:33 pm

      This is a great point that speaks to quickly changing and expanding technology. Adaptability by company or organization adds another dynamic, doesn’t it? Thanks for sharing, Brian.

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One Gap That’s Bigger Than the Generation Gap