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Skills Shortage Tightens Job Market; 83% of HR Professionals Report Difficulty Recruiting: SHRM Research

About one-third of HR professionals say workplace immigration process very difficult to navigate; improvements in public policy among actions needed to help close the skills gap

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The skills gap is real and getting worse, with 83 percent of HR professionals saying they had difficulty recruiting suitable candidates in the past 12 months, according to new research from SHRM — the Society for Human Resource Management. The findings highlight the urgent need to address the training of workers and improve public-policy governing work.

“A majority of Americans (63 percent) believe what employers facing difficulty in recruiting have known for some time — there is a skills shortage in the workforce,” said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, president and chief executive officer of SHRM. “What is now clear is that innovative thinking and resolute action are needed, and public policy must change.”

State of the Union: As the voice of all things work, SHRM is leading discussions about public policy that impacts the workplace. CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. can speak to topics expected to be addressed in the State of the Union, including workplace immigration reform, jobs, training of workers, health care and workplace flexibility. Contact SHRM Media Relations for an interview.

According to the SHRM Skills Gap Survey report, 52 percent of HR professionals said that the skills gap has worsened or greatly worsened in the past two years.

Additionally, 83 percent said they have noticed a decrease in the quality of job applicants, with one-third citing a lack of needed technical skills.

The gap is evident in the trades, middle-skilled positions and highly skilled STEM positions. 

• Carpentry, plumbing, welding and machining are the technical abilities most lacking in the workforce. 
• Data analysis, science, engineering, medical and finance are other areas in short supply.

The survey found a contrast between the most common remedies used by employers to address the talent shortage — expanding advertising and outsourcing recruiting, among them — and those that HR professionals say are the most effective:

• Providing onsite training to employees (seminars and training programs);
• Starting or expanding training programs to help improve skills of new hires;
• Providing offsite training to employees (workshops and development programs);
• Increasing compensation. 

Other remedies identified by SHRM are better preparing the youngest workers through collaboration with educational institutions and recruiting from nontraditional sources such as people with criminal backgrounds and military veterans.

More than one-quarter of HR respondents said their businesses collaborate with schools to build a pipeline of job candidates. But almost one-half believe that the education system has done very little to help address the issue.

For some jobs with labor shortages, employment-based immigration is the right remedy.

A majority (85 percent) of HR respondents to the SHRM Employment-Based Immigration Survey said it was very important to recruit workers regardless of their national origin. 

While about three-quarters of survey respondents said foreign-born workers contribute positively to U.S. economic growth and help drive innovation, more than one-third said their businesses were challenged by an insufficient number of employment-based visas, such as H-1Bs, to recruit these workers. 
Additionally, one-third said the employment-based immigration process was lengthy and complex with unpredictable results.

Respondents also called for the removal of roadblocks to ensuring a legal workforce. What is needed now, according to HR professionals:

• More employment visas: 33 percent of those who use work visas in recruiting say more are needed to recruit, hire, transfer and retain talented employees.

• Mandatory E-Verify: 81 percent support a national, entirely electronic system that accurately confirms identity for employment and combats identity theft.

• Trusted Employer Program: 56 percent approve its creation for low-risk, immigration-compliant employers.

Methodology: The SHRM Skills Gap Survey polled 1,028 HR professionals and the SHRM Employment-Based Immigration Survey polled 785 HR professionals. Both were conducted in September 2018. A separate NORC Amerispeak Omnibus poll asked 1,059 Americans about national issues of significance to them. 

Media: For details on the research surveys or to schedule an interview with SHRM CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., contact Kate Kennedy at 703-535-6260 and, or Vanessa Hill at 703-535-6072 and

Society for Human Resource Management
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest HR professional society, representing 300,000 members in more than 165 countries. For nearly seven decades, the Society has been the leading provider of resources serving the needs of HR professionals and advancing the practice of human resource management. SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China, India and United Arab Emirates. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter and Instagram @SHRMPress.


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