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From the CEO: HR Alone Can't Bridge the Skills Gap

Supportive government policies are critical to solving the U.S. talent crisis.


A man in a blue suit posing for a photo.


Recent employment numbers provide a stark illustration of our country’s current talent crisis. At the end of 2018, the U.S. had 7 million open jobs, but only 6.3 million unemployed people were looking for work.

That’s a people gap on top of a widening skills gap. SHRM’s new research shows that more than one-third of employers are seeing a decrease in applicant quality across the board—45 percent report a quality decline for specialty positions.

The skills gap dominates the coverage in this month’s issue of HR Magazine, which includes an overview of the blue-collar talent drought and a look at effective measures that HR professionals are taking to attract, keep and advance high-performing employees.

But HR can’t fix it alone. We need supportive government policies that create wider paths to work for more people and empower employers to give them the experiences and benefits to keep them there.

For example, we need better policies and programs around preparing workers for the jobs of tomorrow. That’s why, as one of 25 business leaders appointed by the U.S. Department of Commerce to the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, I intend to make SHRM’s voice heard.

SHRM has also put its advocacy weight behind H.R. 1043, the Employer Participation in Repayment Act, which aims to expand the tax exclusion for employer-provided educational assistance to include student loan repayment. When employers can help their workers defray student debt, more individuals will have the confidence to pursue or complete higher education and be prepared to fill high-demand fields in the years to come.

We also need more government incentives for employers to recruit from nontraditional talent pools such as older workers, people with disabilities, veterans and applicants with criminal histories. At the same time, we must make it easier for employers to compete globally for top talent, so immigration reform is going to be essential to SHRM’s message in 2019.

We’ll also have a chance to dig deeper into the issues that shape workplace hiring and explore solutions at our Talent Conference & Exposition, “Talent Is Everything,” April 8-10 in Nashville. It’s a perfect opportunity to explore new ways to access untapped talent pools, communicate the true value of benefits and retain engaged employees at every level. Ginger Hardage, former senior vice president of culture and communications for Southwest Airlines, is just one of our impressive keynoters. I hope to see many of you there.

What happens in Washington has an indelible effect on our workplaces. SHRM is prepared to lead on forging the changes that shape not just our workplaces, but the larger world.  

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management.
Photograph by Delane Rouse for HR Magazine. 

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