Skills gap may turn into ‘skills canyon’ by end of pandemic, executive warns

A growing skills gap is a threat to the economic recovery and Americans are worried their financial security may be in jeopardy as a result, according to Prudential’s latest Pulse of the American Worker Survey.

About half of U.S. workers say they will need to learn new skills within the next year to continue their current jobs, and many are worried they are not prepared to capitalize on potential job opportunities as a result.

But it’s not just employees who are affected by the widening skills gap, it’s critical that companies address the skill shortage exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Before the pandemic... there was a skills gap. Post-pandemic, we may be saying there’s a skills canyon,” Prudential Financial Vice Chair Rob Falzon told Yahoo Finance Live. “You’re not going to be able to hire your way out of that problem. ... You’re well-served to be investing in the skills of your employees.”

A recent McKinsey Global Survey found the coronavirus pandemic has made the question of how to address the skills gap more urgent. Nearly 90% of executives acknowledge a current skills gap or expect one in their workforce within the next few years, but less than half have a plan to reskill and upskill their employees.

“It's employees who are looking to their employers to provide the opportunity for upskilling, reskilling, and training,” added Falzon. Employers need to invest in training their workforce... They need to do it for their own purposes because they're not going to find the skills in the marketplace.”

Nearly half of workers and 30% of managers responding to Prudential's survey believe problem solving skills and adaptability will be valuable in the years to come, while computer technology and remote work capabilities topped the list for skills most needed in the near-term.

“[It previously was] about every decade or so you had to reinvent yourself to be relevant in the workforce, but that’s accelerated to a four-year period of time with the rapid adoption of technology, AI, automation,” Falzon said. “You need to stay on the leading edge of the evolution of the necessary skills to be creating value in an organization, and that means you have to constantly be reinvesting in an education process.”

Seana Smith anchors Yahoo Finance Live’s 3-5 p.m. ET program. Follow her on Twitter @SeanaNSmith