Rethinking Your Training and Hiring Practices to Fill the Skills Gap 

Rethinking Your Training and Hiring Practices to Fill the Skills Gap 
Jillian Bateman — March 27, 2023

I wrote an article four years ago regarding there being a training ‘skills gap’ in the US. At the time of writing that article, there was evidence of there being a debate on whether a skills gap even existed in the US, or if it was just due to high unemployment rates. Meaning, were employers just saying there was a skills gap in applicants, but in reality, they were just being extra picky because they had so many applicants for very few job openings? Fast forward to today, there can be no debate on whether a skills gap exists in the US. If you Google “Skills Gap”, you will get zero articles about whether it exists or not, but millions of articles explaining what it is, the data behind it, which industries are being impacted by it, and how to solve it.  

Workforce Shortages in the Security Industry

Within the electronic security industry, there is no surprise that there is a workforce and skills shortage. ESA Member companies have been struggling for years to find employees, and predictions show the situation will worsen as baby boomers continue to retire. A 2022 survey of CEOs by Deloitte (source: https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/chief-executive-officer/articles/ceo-survey.html) found labor and skills shortages were the 2nd most cited external factor disrupting their business strategy. Another staggering data point is a 2021 survey by the National Association of Manufacturers (source: https://www.nam.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/NAM-Outlook-Survey-Q3-2021.pdf) found that 80% of companies say their top challenge is the inability to attract and retain a quality workforce. You can find similar stats for most industries. Compounding the problem is the “great resignation”, which has resulted in people looking and demanding higher pay, more flexible and rewarding work. 

Pretty bleak right? Is there any light at the end of the tunnel? I am intrinsically an optimist and do believe there are solutions right at our fingertips to remedy these gaps. First and foremost, companies need to spend more time and money in retraining your current workforce. I am not talking about throwing refresher courses at them, but actually teaching your team brand new skills. Examples, may be providing anyone on your team access to networking certifications, data analytics courses, leadership training, cyber security, and sales skills. If companies provide training to their employees in high skilled areas, this is an attractive benefit to job seekers, but it also ensures that the company has an internal pool of skilled workers who can help the company adapt as technology changes and the needs of their customers change. Many might fear that this investment could encourage your employees to leave you for a better job, but the real fear should be having a stagnant and unmotivated workforce that does nothing to push your company’s performance to new levels. Investing in a robust and forward-thinking training program will help companies be better prepared to adapt for innovation, or a change in services they provide.  

How Diverse is Your Hiring Search? 

Another area that companies should be focusing on is how diverse are their hiring searches? Are you looking towards the same pool of employees that you always have, such as trade schools or enticing employees from your competitors? Its time to rethink where you look for new hires and how wide you are spanning your search. I reviewed several job postings for “security technician” in Dallas/Fort Worth and the majority of postings had requirements for “minimum of 2 years’ experience installing or servicing alarms and/or security systems”. Why? Does it really require experience in this field? Are there not other experiences that they could have that would make them a great candidate? Because of this ‘minimum experience’ qualification, how many job seekers are you not getting exposed to? From most of my conversations with hiring managers they are looking for someone who is eager to learn, dependable, able to communicate clearly, and has a curiosity about technology. The ‘skills’ of the installation and service component can be taught on the job, so enhancing your search to find someone that has a good track record of being teachable and dependable may result in a more successful hire, vs focusing on their skills experience. 

 

Get Involved in Local High Schools

Another tip is to get involved in your area’s high schools. There are so many career pathways being offered in high schools and the administration is desperate to find local employers who are willing to support their students through simple things like career awareness, internships, or providing equipment. Even if the school doesn’t have a security, or low voltage tech program, chances are they have programs that align with the skills you are looking for. The staff at the school are also great resources for recommending soon to be graduates for open any open positions you have available. 

Take Advantage of ESA’s National Training School Courses

ESA’s National Training School has many courses that can provide an investment in your company’s employees and help you fill any skills gaps that exist. As most know, ESA has ample technical skills courses to help you on-board that new hire, but we also have plenty of courses on wireless communication protocols, residential networking, cybersecurity, and a vast number of workplace essential topics. This includes: Communication Strategies, Creative Problem Solving, Handling a Difficult Customer, Goal Setting, and much more. To learn more be sure you are subscribed to ESA emails and communications.   

 

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