When was the last time you completed a job application? Did the posting mention communications skills?
According to data from the Workforce Intelligence Network for Southeast Michigan (WIN), 40 percent of job postings identify communications skills — including verbal, written, and interpersonal skills — as a need. It is likely that the true number of job postings emphasizing communications skills is even higher, but the attribute is not specifically stated in the posting.
WIN’s Eureka Report on preparing the workforce for innovative and disruptive technologies further underscores this research: It found that employers are less concerned about young peoples’ technical skills and more concerned about their abilities to relate and engage with others in the workplace. Additionally, a recent report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that many college and university students are graduating with STEM degrees, but do not have the ideal combination of technical and employability skills, including communication, needed to thrive in the workplace.
To what degree are they listing skills that can be considered “communications related” and in what types of occupations? WIN conducted research on the top job postings in Southeast Michigan from March 2014 to March 2015 to determine the need for such skills.
Of the top 10 in-demand jobs posted in Southeast Michigan, eight listed communications skills as a requirement — all except first-line supervisors of retail sales workers and heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers. While supervisor roles did not list communications skills, they are implicit in any supervisory or management-related job.
In addition, nearly 30 percent of top in-demand job postings, or 145,880, specifically listed “communications” as a required skill for applicants. More than 40 percent of job postings, more than 576,000, identified various communications-related skills as “top foundational skills” required by applicants. Many jobs that are not conventionally perceived as communications-related occupations, such as mechanical and electrical engineers or computer systems analysts, were among those that identified communications as a required skill. Furthermore, job postings emphasized “communications skills” as the single most in-demand foundational skill on top-demand job postings, with 142,451 open jobs listing this attribute, followed by another 100,655 indicating “organizational skills,” and 80,742 listing “writing” (another communications-related skill).
Thus, of the top three foundational skills in greatest demand, two are communications related, and this is for occupations such as computer systems analysts, electrical engineers, and other STEM jobs that are often perceived as placing more emphasis on technical rather than soft skills.
A recent article from Forbes shared findings from a study conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), which surveyed 510 senior executives on skills needed by both HR and non-HR job candidates. Thirty-nine percent of those surveyed indicated that leadership is the most critical competency now and down the road. Respondents also identified communication and relationship management as important competencies that many job candidates lack.
What does this mean for the future workforce?
Community stakeholders — meaning local employers and businesses, community colleges and universities, and the intermediaries that help to bridge these two groups, such as WIN — must work collaboratively to ensure that foundational skills like communication are embedded in educational programming in order to prepare the next generation.
Findings from the aforementioned National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s report demonstrated that an effective way to attain this outcome is for all community stakeholders to work together through chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, and others. Businesses and educational institutes should engage each other and allow intermediaries to facilitate these relationships to overcome barriers. By nurturing this type of collaborative partnership, the in-demand foundational employability skills such as communications for future workers can be developed, established and eventually integrated into curriculum and training opportunities for current and future workers.
In order to prepare the long-term workforce in Michigan, especially in high-demand occupations, there must be a strong relationship between stakeholders to develop an informed and skilled talent pipeline.
– This blog post was developed with data and research compiled by Lindsay White, communications manager at WIN.