Employers, job seekers must both adapt to meet new market realities

There have been many changes in recent years to the employment landscape for both employers and job seekers. For example, social networking is having a significant impact on how job searches are undertaken by both employers and candidates.

But that’s not where the need to adapt stops. La Tina R. Johnson, Ed.D., workforce director of Job Link Services at Cuyahoga Community College, says employers are increasingly having difficulty finding the right talent in the Northeast Ohio workforce.

“A high school diploma is no longer enough to qualify someone to land a job that pays a good wage,” she says. “Individuals need to have up-to-date skills and, where applicable, have stackable certifications that show progressive skill attainment in order to advance within their career.”

And as candidates improve their skill sets through training and education, Johnson says employers should find ways to onboard candidates who have the right skills, but lack industry experience.

Smart Business spoke with Johnson about the region’s hiring environment and how employers and job seekers can both get what they want.

How do employers and job seekers each view the regional employment environment?

Beyond up-to-date technical competencies, and proven industry knowledge and experience, employers are increasingly looking for candidates with excellent soft skills — chief among them the ability to effectively communicate — so the employee can work well with others within the company and be an outstanding representative of the company when interacting with customers. Employers frequently talk about closing the soft-skills gap they see in workplace etiquette, work ethic, communication and customer service.

Employers are finding that a lack of soft skills leads to retention issues — candidates have the technical qualifications to land a job, but they can’t keep it. This isn’t something employers are willing to invest time or resources into fixing, so candidates need to apply self-awareness and self-discipline to ensure they arrive to work on time and with the proper motivation, and avoid unnecessary call offs.

Job candidates express concern that there aren’t enough available jobs in the market and that they often do not have the qualifications desired for positions that are available. Regarding the latter, it’s important to understand that the job market is changing and employers expect more out of their workforce. This means candidates who find they’re often unqualified for these positions need to get additional training so that they’re among the better candidates for the region’s in-demand positions. This could mean undertaking training or education to facilitate a transition into another industry.

What would you consider to be the barriers that make it difficult for employers and job candidates to connect?

It’s typical for employers to want candidates to have a certain number of years of experience in a field. This may narrow the pipeline of applicable candidates who are just finishing school or have taken courses to facilitate a transition to a new industry. To open the door to candidates who lack the experience, but have the skills to do the job, employers should consider creating more internship opportunities to help candidates transition from academia to the workforce, or be willing to give them an opportunity to showcase their talent in entry-level positions that have a clear upward trajectory.

Candidates, on the other hand, should understand that a transition to a new field won’t come at the same wage or salary they had in their previous role. They shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss entry-level roles because they offer a chance to get work experience and show value to employers, which creates opportunities for advancement. Take into account the whole opportunity, including skill building and the value of the entire compensatory package.

Employers today have put an emphasis on culture and have higher expectations of candidates. That means job seekers need to be willing to build up their technical skill set and improve soft skills to land and keep a job. And employers need to reconsider job qualifications to welcome transitioning candidates who may not yet have the experience, but are otherwise prepared to hit the ground running.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College