Every conversation I have with employers focuses on the concern about worker shortages and the difficulty they have in finding individuals with the skills needed to fill their open positions. The most recent economic survey conducted by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) indicates that 80% of employers are having trouble finding workers. Given Wisconsin’s demographics, this problem will, no doubt, only continue to worsen in the years ahead.
Years ago when the number of individuals available for work was much larger and candidate pools were deeper, employers could easily use position requirements that typically involved 3-5 years of related experience and often higher-level degree requirements to land their ideal candidates. Given today’s labor market, employers may have an opportunity for greater candidate pools by refocusing position requirements on entry-level workers versus the ideal, experienced candidates.
I saw this play out first hand almost a decade ago when my son graduated with an associate degree in mechanical design. There were a number of position postings, but almost every mechanical design position in the local market listed 3-5 years of related experience as a requirement. I recall him asking me, “How do I get experience if no one is willing to hire someone without experience?” I advised him to apply for those positions anyway. But I wonder about how many of our technical college and university graduates see this experience requirement and simply don’t apply believing they don’t have the qualifications.
In fields such as marketing, sales, IT, accounting, and others, too often we see employers listing a bachelor’s degree as a minimum requirement for a position when, in fact, associate degree graduates could fill these roles and perform them very effectively. In fact, associate degree graduates often bring higher levels of technical expertise to many types of positions. The most common feedback I hear from employers of technical college graduates is that “they hit the ground running” in their respective companies. And so many of our graduates find great advancement opportunities within organizations once they have a bit of experience.
Hiring managers and HR professionals really need to take a hard look at position requirements in this market to attract the greatest potential candidate pools for consideration. They may be pleasantly surprised by some of the fresh, relevant (but possibly inexperienced) talent to be discovered for their workforce.