Many U.S. Workers Don't Have What Employers Really Want

What Employers Really Want There's a great divide between the skills employees have and the skills employers really want, according to a recent survey. Most employers are facing a major challenge recruiting employees with the skills, training and education their companies require, the survey found.

That is one of the key findings of a new report, Across the Great Divide, released by Corporate Voices for Working Families and Civic Enterprises. The report examines the perspectives of business and college leaders on the state of America's higher education, the skills gap and what is needed for the United States to be competitive in today's challenging global economy.

More than half (53 percent) of business leaders say their companies face a very or fairly major challenge in recruiting non-managerial employees with the skills, training, and education their company needs, despite unemployment close to 10 percent and millions of Americans seeking jobs at the time of the survey. Those at smaller companies, who were responsible for over 50 percent of new jobs created in 2007, feel this most acutely: 67 percent say it is difficult while only 33 percent find it easy.

The value of two-year degrees

The report also shows that the secondary education system in the United Staters, and our perceptions about it, are going to need some tweaks if we're going to have a better prepared work force. For example, if two-thirds of job openings in the next decade will require at least some post-secondary education, including programs that are two years or less, we'd better start recognizing the value of short-term degrees and credentials.

Most business leaders (98 percent) believe a "college" education means a four-year degree, according to the survey. Just 13 percent of business leaders think of a two-year associate's degree in these terms, and only 10 percent say "college" includes a career or technical certification. By the end of this decade, however, about an equal percentage of jobs will require a bachelor's degree or better (33 percent) as some college or a two-year associate's degree (30 percent).

Stephen M. Wing, President of Corporate Voices for Working Families, said: "The focus on college too often excludes the demand for those who hold two-year associate degrees and trade-specific credentials. Despite the conventional wisdom that bachelor's degrees are critical to success, the job market of the future will demand a vast new supply of talented graduates of a diverse range of post-secondary programs, including those that are two years or less."

Jessica Milano, senior policy advisor to Civic Enterprises and lead researcher for the report, said: "Community colleges and business leaders need to make a quantum leap in aligning associate's degrees and career credentials with the workforce skills employers demand. After all, the ultimate goal of a post-secondary education for students is landing a job in their chosen field and a shot at the American dream."

Next: Top 10 Companies Hiring This Week

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