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Closing the skills gap through continued education

Students in Classroom

When it comes to hiring skilled employees, it's a matter of supply, not demand.

If you ask businesses the biggest problem they face, the answer is the same: finding qualified job candidates.

 In 2017, MetLife and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce surveyed 1,000 businesses, and half of all respondents said they had trouble finding qualified applicants. Glassdoor also conducted a survey in 2017 that found three out of four hiring decision-makers said attracting qualified candidates is the No. 1 challenge they face.


In a few cases, applicants lack the actual qualifications and experience needed. But more often, the difficulty is finding someone with polished and professional writing, communication or math skills. Sometimes it's the absence of people skills, like leadership and team building.

Robert Vandorin, director of the Office of Business Engagement at Central Michigan University, said more and more employers are teaming up with universities to offer education and professional development training to their employees to help fill that skills gap.

"Businesses identify skills they want their employees to have, especially those entering leadership positions. Sometimes it is supporting employees finishing their degree. But more and more businesses see value in providing their employees with customized professional development training," he said.

So, how do you become that person employers — whether it be your current organization or another — are having such a hard time finding?

The simple answer is broadening your skill set, and becoming the person they thought they could not find.

The real answer is more nuanced. It's not easy to just acquire a new skill set. It takes time, effort, dedication and finding the right path forward.

It probably means going back to school, which can be a challenge itself. How do you balance work, life and earning a degree?

There is a way, and here are a few tips on what to look for in a school.

How to choose where you continue your education

  1. It is reputable.

    Look for accreditation. Regional accreditation agencies are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit degree-granting colleges and universities. This validates the quality of the institution and ensures your degree holds value.
  2. It offers flexibility to accommodate your busy schedule.

    You have work, family and community obligations that must be accommodated. The ultimate flexibility and convenience are found online. Some schools also have satellite locations offering evening and weekend programs.

  3. It has a dedicated support staff.

    You might be returning to school after several years or encountering online courses for the first time. Most of you will want the services of a writing center, math center, and the opportunity for mentoring and one-to-one help. A library adept at home delivery of materials and with dedicated librarians for online students also is a must.
  4. It offers a variety of degrees, certificates and seminars.

    Everyone has different goals and needs. You may want to finish a bachelor's degree or learn new skills with a master's program. Or maybe you need a shorter certificate program that you can complete in a year. Seminars often can address smaller organization needs like a grammar refresher or email etiquette. Find a school that offers it all.
  5. There are alternate paths to credit.

    You've already acquired valuable life and work experience that should count toward degree credit. Certification-to-credit programs can save you time and money. Look for a school that will give you credits for your experience.

With the help of an advanced education, you'll become a commodity in a limited candidate pool. That's a recipe for success.

Established in 1892, Central Michigan University serves about 23,000 students on campus, online and at satellite locations across Michigan, including six in metro Detroit. For the past 45 years, CMU has built strong support services for working adults pursuing an education and offers nearly 300 programs, including approximately 100 at the graduate level. Explore CMU's online and satellite location programs at

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