Today's expanding skills gap is threatening the long-term prosperity of many (if not all) organizations.

The shrinking labor pool, forced reskilling brought about by technology, and increased global competition are all contributing to the widening of today's skills gap.

Leaders have identified the skills shortage as a top concern to be addressed. In fact, 75 percent of human resource professionals who have recruiting difficulty say there is a shortage of skills in candidates for job openings.

Only 42 percent of employers believe new Gen-Z graduates are adequately prepared for the workforce, especially with social and emotional skills. Additionally, more than a third of human resources leaders agree colleges are most responsible for getting an employee work ready. 

The tension between teaching to a test and preparing students to be life ready is an unfortunate dilemma facing education today. The ultimate focus should be on career readiness, but the short-term focus of test scores is getting in the way.

More than 40 percent of companies have not collaborated with colleges to make the curriculum more responsive to workplace needs. As a result, almost a third of colleges do not have a pipeline of talent with the right skills to fill employers' current and future roles.

Nearly half of employers attribute unfilled job openings to a lack of qualified candidates. Yet, 74 percent of companies are investing only $500 per employee on training and development between upskilling and reskilling. (Upskilling is learning new competencies to stay in a current role or adding certain competencies for career progression. Reskilling is learning new sets of competencies to transition to a completely new role.)

The bottom line is colleges aren't preparing Gen-Z for jobs, and companies aren't investing enough in training Gen-Z.

LinkedIn recently determined "the hard and soft skills companies need most" by looking at skills that are in high demand relative to their supply. Demand was measured by identifying the skills listed on the LinkedIn profiles of people who are getting hired at the highest rates.

Below are the skills colleges should focus on and employers should hire and/or train for.

The most in-demand soft skills:

"Soft skills" are personality traits and behaviors.

  1. Creativity: While robots are great at optimizing old ideas, organizations most need creative employees who can conceive the solutions of tomorrow with relevancy and novelty.
  2. Persuasion: Having a great product, a great platform, or a great concept is one thing, but the key is persuading people to buy into it.
  3. Collaboration: As projects grow increasingly more complex and global in the age of AI, effective collaboration grows only more important.
  4. Adaptability: An adaptable mind is an essential tool for navigating today's ever-changing world, as yesterday's solutions won't solve tomorrow's problems.
  5. Time management: A timeless skill, mastering time management is career enhancing and highly useful in today's distraction-filled world.

The most in-demand hard skills:

"Hard skills" concern one's ability to do a specific task.

  1. Cloud computing: As the world rushes toward the cloud, companies are desperately searching for engineers who have the skills to accommodate this demand.
  2. Artificial intelligence: The age of AI is here and growing fast.
  3. Analytical reasoning: As they collect more data than ever before, companies are hungry for professionals who can make smart decisions based off it.
  4. People management: The world has changed from a "command-and-control" model toward leaders who can coach and empower, a difficult skill set few professionals possess.
  5. UX design: UX design is the key to making a digital world work for humans.
  6. Mobile application development: A skill that's been in-demand for several years as companies continue to design mobile-first platforms.
  7. Video production: Demand for video production is spiking as streaming represents 70 percent of all consumer internet traffic.
  8. Sales leadership: Sales is one of those skills that's always in-demand, and great sales leaders are only becoming harder to find.
  9. Translation: We are more connected globally than ever before, with translation skills breaking down one of the last remaining barriers: language.
  10. Audio production: Similar to video, there's been a spike in interest in podcasts and other audio digital formats recently, leading to increased demand for this skill.
Published on: Jul 17, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.