The so-called “skills gap” has become a hot topic lately—lots of people are talking about the problem, but few have solid ideas about how to solve it. In a nutshell, unemployment in the U.S. is still high, but employers are saying they can’t find the workers they need to grow their businesses. So what exactly is this gap, and how do we fill it?

In a recent survey, 52% of U.S. employers said they were having difficulty filling roles. 1 Meanwhile, unemployment in the U.S. is still hovering at 8.3% as of January 2012. 2 As we read through data there is a consistent thread in a shortage of technical skills. Some positions that employers are looking to fill are specifically technical roles—the demand for IT professionals has increased dramatically over the past few years as businesses invest more heavily in technology. But for many positions where technology is the not the key function, technical skills are still vital to success in the role.

Whether the core industry is a professional service, retail, manufacturing, creative, or something else, the majority of positions in modern businesses require some level of technological competence and experience.

Today employers expect more than great ideas, they need professionals who can execute, measure and report ROI for those projects. Marketing managers need to be proficient in project management software, spreadsheet and reporting systems, and create impactful electronic presentations. Designers need to be able to develop great concepts and execute artwork ready for production, which in many cases includes a functional website or other interactive platform. Copywriters develop concepts, refine the copy, and edit or proofread in electronic systems.

For professionals in the creative industry, overcoming this technology gap is critical—every role is becoming more multi-functional, multi-dimensional and technology reliant. While there is no substitute for great ideas and innovative concepts, companies are looking for people who can also execute and bring those concepts to life. Add with ever-changing software needs and requirements, version updates and every hot new social media platform of the week…it’s easy to see why there is a technology gap.

When someone has been in the same position, same role or company for a period of time, they become experts on whatever that company uses. It’s important to keep moving forward and learn new skills. It’s easy to fall behind simply by not moving forward. As peers learn new skills, those technologies become minimum expectations for employers. It’s also important to note that today’s employers are not interested in on-the-job learning or training if there are other candidates who can fill the position and be effective immediately.

To stay competitive and avoid getting caught in the “skills gap,” keep your technology skills current and up-to-date whether you’re looking for a new position or not. Staying current keeps you competitive and valuable to your current employer, and prepares you for new opportunities if and when the time is right.

1 Source: 2011 Talent Shortage Survey, study conducted by Manpower Group
2 Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, January News Release

Author's Bio: 

Kristen Harris runs Portfolio Creative, the nation's fastest-growing creative staffing firm. An Inc. 5000 company for the past three years, Portfolio Creative connects clients with creative talent in all areas of design, marketing, communications and advertising.