The Great Recession has come and gone, yet startling unemployment numbers remain – particularly for those aged 25 and under. Recent estimates put the unemployment/underemployment rate as high as 39 percent for this age cohort. The unemployment numbers are frustrating – and paint a dismal picture for those who are recent college graduates or attempting to begin careers – but before we blame the economy, consider this statistic: 49 percent of employers report that they struggle to fill jobs. Meaning, the jobs are there, and we know that there is a large group of people looking for work, yet companies are not hiring. What is going on?

The “Gap” between what employers want and what employees are trained to do

To understand why there are high unemployment/underemployment numbers and a high percentage of companies looking for workers, we first need to look at the gap between job skills and the types of skills people have. A McKinsey study found that only 42 percent of employers believe that recent college graduates are ready for work. In other words, the skills that companies seek simply aren’t being taught in many college institutions.

Economists cite another issue that’s contributing to the gap: Half of the jobs in today’s job market did not exist 25 years ago. Educational institutions are not able to keep up with our rapidly changing economy and the types of jobs that now exist. However, we can’t simply blame our educational system for this disconnect; with so many new types of jobs being created, and a demand for shifting skillsets, constant job training is now paramount. In other words, people’s educations can’t stop when they leave school. We’ve entered a new paradigm where career-long learning and training need to be a requirement if we hope to bridge the skills gap.

Who is responsible for bridging the gap?

Bridging the gap between what employers want and the skills employees come with is a joint effort. Employers need to offer ongoing training opportunities and understand that employees simply aren’t being trained for the types of skills that they need, but with the right training, employees will become adequately equipped.

Secondly, employees need to proactively seek out training opportunities – even before they land a job. If colleges and traditional educational institutions are not offering the types of skills that employers want, job seekers need to take training into their own hands.

Companies need to be transparent about the types of skills needed

Employers know what skills they want employees to have, yet interestingly, employers tend to be opaque about the necessary skills, and they don’t instruct potential employees on how to obtain the skills. To bridge the gap, companies need to make it clear to employees exactly what they’re looking for, and give employees tips on where they can find the necessary training.

Companies such as Goldman Sachs, Macy’s, and Target understand that people in the workforce may not come with the necessary skills, but that doesn’t prevent these companies from hiring. To address the problem, these companies take their new employees through comprehensive training programs that equip them with skills necessary to do the job. They choose graduates from a diverse set of majors and train them for various jobs within the company. This type of training pays off – the companies experience lower turnover and have highly skilled employees, trained specifically for the job at hand.

Are you taking steps to bridge the gap?

If your company is one of the many that has a hard time filling jobs and finding skilled employees, it may be time to examine how you advertise jobs, the type of training you offer new employees, and your ongoing training programs. Investing in your employees’ training will not only add much-needed staff to your company, it leads to lower turnover, higher worker satisfaction, and more motivated employees.

The employees are out there – are you doing your part to attract and train talent?