5 Contributors To the Skills Gap in Health Care Hiring

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By Jason Lovelace

High expectations are set for health care workers, whose daily practices and responsibilities can have a serious impact on the lives of their patients. Thus, hiring managers for health care organizations have a heightened sense of responsibility to find the most qualified and capable workers.

Unfortunately, a majority of health care organizations are struggling to find qualified candidates and fill vacancies, according to a new survey from CareerBuilder and MiracleWorkers.com, its job site for health care professionals. Fifty-two percent of health care employers have open positions for which they can't find qualified candidates and a similar amount (51 percent) say a skills deficit is the reason behind their vacancies.

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Job seekers need to be aware of these five contributors to the skills gap in health care hiring, in order to help minimize the disconnect and also improve their chances of employment.

1. Different expectations for pay

As a job seeker, pay is a key factor in deciding whether a job is the right career choice. However, leading the list of factors contributing to a skills gap in health care hiring, 37 percent of employers point to differing expectations for pay.

Only 27 percent of health care hiring managers believe their organizations offer "extremely or very" competitive pay. One third said they would consider increasing compensation for tough-to-fill roles, and 32 percent said they would not. Thirty-five percent said they've already increased compensation.

In order to overcome this hiring hang-up, job seekers need to be aware of industry standards for pay, as well as what wages are typical for their experience level and the organization's size. More closely aligning expectations for pay with the industry will eliminate this issue.

2. Education and technology gaps

Education and training are steps job seekers and workers should always take to keep up with their careers. Within their industry, medical and technological expertise is always improving and changing, and job seekers need to keep up with these improvements. Thirty-five percent of employers showed concern for candidates with education gaps in particular areas, and 22 percent said potential employees aren't up to date with new and shifting technologies.

In order to stay current, workers and job seekers can keep up with industry news, study trade publications and continue education through seminars, lectures, academic journals and courses. Employers are helping, too: Nearly one half of health care employers say their organization does offer technical skills training to its workforce (47 percent).

3. Job requirements that are above entry-level

Despite their up-to-date skills and education, graduates' limited experience is sometimes enough to deter employers from hiring. Thirty percent of employers pointed to job requirements that are above entry-level as a source of hiring trouble.

This issue is just as much a barrier for employers to overcome as it is for education providers; both need to ensure graduates are receiving the most applicable education that will prepare them for roles in health care organizations. For graduates to overcome this issue, target employers that are most closely aligned with the curriculum and mission of your school.

4. Poor interviewing skills

Job seekers can't always expect their exemplary education and achievements to impress employers; a lack of interview skills is a deterrent to hiring, according to 29 percent of employers. Improving interview skills is a relatively simple fix and will be an asset on the job as well. Being able to clearly explain skills, processes and procedures is just as applicable when interacting with patients as it is with potential employers. Both groups have concerns that only the (potential) employee can quash.

5. On-the-job training is lacking

Health care organizations place much emphasis on specialized experience, making it necessary to have a mechanism for grooming that experience internally. Though 21 percent of employers blame gaps in on-the-job training as a reason they can't find qualified candidates for highly skilled positions, nearly half of health care hiring managers believe training should be equally shared between employers and workers (48 percent) and 36 percent say the bulk of the responsibility should fall on the employer. This suggests after a worker completes the requisite education, the employer has the opportunity to deliver the on-the-job experience needed for professional growth.

The skills gap can be closed by both health care organizations and potential employees making an effort to reach common hiring ground. On-the-job mentoring and development is key to filling future vacancies within organizations, and specialized experience can be reached by having a mechanism for grooming that experience internally. Job seekers are expected to have the skills, experience and capabilities to compete for a good position and pay. Closing the skills gap will take time and effort from both employers and job seekers, but it is within reach.

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Jason Lovelace is president of CareerBuilder Healthcare.
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