With unemployment at a historic low, even successful companies in thriving industries are struggling to find employees. Compounding this issue, Americans today are less willing to move for new jobs than they were in the past. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the national “mover rate” hit a record low of 11.6 percent in 2011 and still remains far below the figures of decades past.

This lack of mobility hurts some industries more than others. Research projects conducted for multiple chambers of commerce suggest these areas include construction, manufacturing, health care, transportation and logistics. Robert Half, a global staffing firm, found that 65 percent of CFOs struggle to identify talented workers for job openings — and that’s even before the struggle to hire talent once they find it.

To prevent this situation from getting worse, companies should reimagine their recruitment strategy as a pipeline. This talent pipeline, much like a sales pipeline, gets talented prospects identified and interested in the company early so that when the time comes to hire for an open position, qualified candidates have not only already been pre-identified but they are eager to take the role.

The Necessity of the Talent Pipeline

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, recent research shows that there aren’t enough qualified workers to fill vacant positions. Many of these roles exist in new or developing fields, like data analytics and cybersecurity. For example, IT companies have 17 percent more jobs open than qualified workers to fill them. Training programs have sprouted to try to correct this imbalance, but companies need these workers faster than today’s training programs can produce them.

The issue with training lies in the multidisciplinary nature of these new jobs. Data analysts, for instance, require both advanced software skills and keen business sense. People with that combination of skills are rare, and while those who do possess the necessary training are paid handsomely, there simply aren’t enough of them.

That leaves companies clamoring to catch the attention of the best candidates — and that’s where the talent pipeline comes in.

Traditional economic development models rely on the assumption that a talent pipeline consists only of people with credentials. In today’s world of online education, however, learning is not limited to traditional brick-and-mortar locations. Advancements in technology have opened new learning opportunities and have created widespread access to aptitude tests that guide people into optimal career paths based on their innate abilities. By using aptitude-based tools, companies can identify “raw talent” earlier and communicate with those people sooner than ever before.

Modern companies can identify students with the abilities those companies will need in order to compete in the future, all while the students are still in high school. Once identified, students can work with companies through apprenticeships, internships and on-the-job learning opportunities to develop the skills they need. It’s kind of like playing “moneyball” in Major League Baseball, only for the workforce instead of relief pitchers.

With millions of students entering American high schools every year, companies that leverage this advantage can get the future workers of Generation Z interested in their industries before they even choose a college. For areas like manufacturing, that’s a big advantage. Many Gen Z students, like millennials before them, have begun to skip college in favor of jobs that don’t require taking on massive student-loan debt.

Constructing an Effective Talent Pipeline

Ready to find your future employees? Follow these tips to build a talent pipeline that brings in more qualified candidates and gets younger prospects interested in your company.

Look Beyond the Resume

Resumes, while helpful to outline past accomplishments, don’t reveal the potential of those who submit them. Several tools claim to help employers understand personalities, strengths and interests, but even those extra tools fail to capture the reality of an employee’s true potential. Those surveys can be rigged, especially by smart candidates who understand how to answer in the way the company wants to hear.

Rather than rely on half-measures or self-reported surveys, companies should turn to performance-based tools to get a real understanding of what candidates are capable of. The most effective tools capture real measures of aptitude and provide proven, reliable information about a prospect’s innate abilities.

Proactively Invest in Future Talent

It’s hard to fill a talent pipeline when your company has multiple openings. Business environments put a strain on everyone, from employees picking up extra work to teams interviewing day in and day out to fill the roster. This mentality often leads to suboptimal talent, as the company takes any warm body to fill a spot.

However, by focusing on high-school students, companies can identify future talent with the abilities they need early enough in the process to create a stable, self-renewing workforce. General Electric, for instance, uses its program in Boston to train young people for STEM positions — and, in the process, it identifies the students who would make the best employees later.

Outsource the Workload

Long-term talent pipelines set up companies for long-term success, but they don’t solve short-term needs — at least not yet. To solve this, companies can turn to freelancers and contract-based staff to bridge the gap while their high-school-aged talent pipelines bear fruit.

Fortunately, good freelancers exist in abundance. If the current pace of freelancing continues, more than half of all Americans will work for themselves at least part time within 10 years. That means a plethora of skilled talent is already out there and eager to take on more work for companies that need them.

Will improved educational opportunities close the talent gap? That’s hard to say. However, shortage or not, companies with an effective talent pipeline will be able to attract the best and brightest to work for them. By investing in the future and finding short-term alternatives to bridge the gaps, companies can stay ahead of the talent shortage and secure the superiority of their workforce for years to come.

Armando Garza is the chief evangelist at YouScience, the first online aptitude-based career guidance platform, and his goal is to help young adults find their best-fit careers at the intersection of their talents and passions.

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