How Non-profits can combat the skills gap

Despite an increasingly educated workforce, wages across industries are stagnant, particularly for entry level jobs. The explanations for this are many, but some of the most cited reasons are:

  • Applicants don’t have enough experience in the field to have earned higher wages
  • There’s still a skills gap, meaning that students are not graduating with the skills they need to be successful
  • Government regulation on businesses makes it too hard to be profitable, resulting in lower wages

Whether or not these reasons are valid, it is clear that it is getting harder and harder for entry level employees or even mid-level employees to find well-paying jobs. Even experienced employees are getting lowball offers when trying to change companies.

Because private sector employers are offering low wages for entry level and intermediate job openings, nonprofits can actually offer competitive wages.  Yes, that’s how low wages are in parts of the United States. Non-profits can offer competitive wages to private sector, for-profit corporations. This is appealing toward social workers and other people who tend to lean toward the nonprofit sector, but would otherwise have gone for higher paying jobs.

Though the non-profit sector has grown 25% since 2001, non-profit work is a passion, and not everyone will stay involved long-term. This knowledge gives non-profits the opportunity to combat the skills gap and qualify their employees for higher paying jobs should they choose to look for other work.

Non-profits can then build their programs to train their employees in necessary industry skills so that when they move on, they are qualified for higher paying jobs. This incentivizes working for the non-profit, increases chances of employee retention and continued support, and gives the non-profit a good reputation for treating their employees well.  

Emphasize IT

One of the biggest windows that non-profits can open for their employees is that of technology. There are a lot of ways that non-profits can utilize technological advancements. For many reasons, including the IT Skills gap, non-profits are often short on tech-savvy employees. By funding IT trainings and workshops for interested employees, non-profits can improve their online presence, the efficiencies of their processes, and their competitive edge, all while helping their employees obtain valuable skills.

Having a technology-literate staff can be a huge benefit for a non-profit. They can implement effective social media marketing strategies, create engaging advertisements, set up systems to track vital fundraising progress, and implement systems for non-profits to collect membership dues and other payments.

Obviously there are countless other applications for technology for non-profits. Due to limited resources though, there isn’t always a designated position for all these functions. Non-profits can hire non-tech professionals with an interest in tech to perform other vital functions, then train them in IT and tech skills along the way. Both parties benefit in both the short term and long term.

Teach Transferrable Skills

One of the best things that educators and employers can do is to teach transferrable skills. Certain tasks and skills are applicable across many industries. For example, there isn’t an industry in existence where an interpersonal communications class or a problem solving workshop won’t be useful. See Case University’s breakdown of different social work careers and what skills will be easily transferable.

Bring the Community In

The biggest problem with the skills gap is the way employment is determined. Big corporations and government agencies often eliminate applications based on keywords, without even looking at them. That is no way to build on people’s strengths. That is a way to avoid training.

Non-profits thrive when they focus on relationship building. To this end, non-profits should seek out schools, job programs, community services, and other organizations that they can cooperate with. This allows this to further their benefit in the community and build a pool of potential employees. Depending on the focus of your organization, you can even host community trainings or teach high school classes the skills you’re looking for, and then use those as employment pools.

The current economy allows non-profits to make a difference to their own bottom line and help solve a larger systemic problem within their local community. Do you have experiences with the skills gap? Share in the comments below!


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