Do We Have the Grit to Close the Skills Gap?

Excerpt from Jay Banfield — July 2013

In Silicon Valley, the skills gap has created a war for talent, but the war is not limited to the Valley. It is felt across the country, in every region and across every sector….

Ironically, this gap exists, in large part, because we haven’t defined key skills correctly. If you think about your best employees, aren’t they the ones who work the hardest and who persevere through difficult times? Their technical skills are important, but don’t those technical skills quickly become a threshold issue, a minimum requirement? Ask any hiring manager what they are looking for in an ideal candidate, and you will quickly hear words like grit, determination, motivation, persistence, adaptability and hard work, characteristics often described as “non-cognitive” skills by academics like the Nobel Prize winner James Heckman. Ask those same hiring managers how they source and identify such characteristics and you get…nothing.

We have it backwards. Because these non-cognitive skills appear hard to quantify and assess, employers’ ability to source and identify them are woefully inadequate. As a result, these essential non-cognitive skills are overlooked disproportionately in favor of metrics like GPAs, test scores and degrees…