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A Better Measure of Skills Gaps: Utilizing ACT Skill Profile and Assessment Data for Strategic Skill Research.

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It is no secret that global markets and innovations in technology are driving rapid change in the U.S. economy. While much has been said over the years about the employment shift from goods-producing to service-providing industries, new research suggests that the shift is not due to sectoral employment change but rather a shift in the mix of jobs within industries and the types of skills that those jobs require. The phrase "skills gap" is used in the public arena very loosely with varying degrees of understanding of what a "gap" in "skills" actually means. Definitions of the phrase vary widely, with different schools of thought approaching the issue in drastically different ways. Formal methodology for quantifying a "skills gap" is either completely lacking, as in much of the policy-oriented research, or is too convoluted, as is often the case in the economic literature. A balanced approach for "skills gap" analysis is needed that incorporates rigorous quantitative methods with an eye for practical application. This paper seeks to enter the conversation by proposing a simple definition for the phrase "skills gap" by the most simple of interpretations: that a skills gap measures the difference between the skills needed for a job versus those skills possessed by a prospective worker. This paper posits that "skills gap" analysis should target identifiable skills. Initiatives based on findings of indirect measures of "skills" and "skills gaps" may invest precious time and resources in "skills" that are not in fact needed by employers. A balanced approach is needed for "skills gap" research that incorporates rigorous quantitative methods, uses a direct measure of skills, and has practical application for workforce policy. The paper proposes a skills gap methodology that uses more detailed and specific measures of skills for supply/demand analysis. A review of the literature on the methodology and use of the phrase "skills gap" follows, with highlights from the fields of workforce policy, industrial/organizational psychology, and economic-based research. Lastly, a gap analysis using the proposed methodology is conducted for four major industry sectors

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Publication:ERIC: Reports
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2011
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