Ironic as it may be, despite high unemployment and the perception of a surplus of talent, HR/benefits professionals and hiring managers may be forced to choose from limited quantities of high-skilled workers, a new Deloitte study shows.

The 2012 survey reveals talent issues as the most significant challenge to organizations over the next three years. One quarter of all survey respondents expressed concerns about talent, particularly the shortage, and motivating and retaining talent, a substantial increase over 16% last year. Talent shortage concerns are highest among insurance and professional services firms.

"The survey exposes a widening gap between the dwindling supply of skilled workers in America and the growing demands of the modern workplace," says David Lusk, principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP and author of the report. "A key challenge ahead for employers will be working to help close this skills gap to maintain a competitive edge in the global marketplace."


Manufacturing skills particularly scarce

Within manufacturing in particular, there is evidence of a mismatch between available jobs and workforce skills. While unemployment has fallen since January 2009, the number of available job openings has risen from 98,000 to 230,000, according to Deloitte.

"The jobs coming back are requiring higher level skills," says Dr. Gary Green, president of Forsyth Technical Community College in North Carolina. "It's not the commodity production stuff; it's more high-tech products, products that are focused on the American market." He adds environmental and political volatility have made U.S.-based companies more aware that there are benefits to coming back home.

Companies also are bringing home jobs in manufacturing due to a scarcity of local employees with the required technical skills in emerging markets. A recent study from Mercer shows that just more than half (59%) of participating organizations cited this as their main challenge, as well as dealing with complex labor laws (53%) and establishing appropriate salary structures (51%).

However, Green cites statistics that 97% of new jobs created today will require some level of post-secondary education. "The skills we need in manufacturing, integrated computing, welding and mechanical engineering are different than 10 years ago. There is an opportunity to make sure schools are teaching the skills and employers are confident that students coming out of institutions have those skills."


Facebook is the new 'first interview'

According to study findings published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, researchers asked HR professionals to rate college students' employability based on the students' Facebook pages, drawing conclusions about their degree of emotionally stability, conscientiousness, extroversion, intellectual curiosity and agreeableness. Six months later, Forbes reports, the researchers contacted 56 of the 500 students' employers and asked about their job performance. A small sample, to be sure, but the researchers still found the employer reviews and the employability predictions using Facebook had a strong correlation.Thus, Forbes concludes that the "key takeaway for hiring employers [is] the Facebook page is the first interview; if you don't like a person there, you probably won't like working with them."

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