Most Employers Have Difficulty Filling ‘Middle-Skills' Positions, Report Reveals

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By Caryn Freeman

Nov. 19 — Unfilled “middle-skills” jobs—those that generally require more education or training than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree—threaten a company’s ability to grow and compete globally, according to a report released Nov. 12.

‘‘Bridge the Gap: Rebuilding America’s Middle Skills,’’ published by global management consulting firm Accenture, Boston-based labor analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies and Harvard Business School, surveyed more than 800 human resources executives across 18 industries.

According to the survey, almost half of all job postings today (47 percent) are for middle-skills jobs.

“The majority of businesses have trouble filling middle-skills jobs due to many underlying issues such as inadequate training and lack of experience,” David Smith, senior managing director of strategy, talent and organization at Accenture, said in a Nov. 12 press release. “Businesses must develop a better process to source, develop, deploy and retain middle-skills talent to ensure their long-term productivity and corporate performance.”

The survey found that 56 percent of HR execs found middle-skills jobs hard to fill. Companies in finance and insurance (68 percent), information and telecommunications (55 percent), and health-care (54 percent) experience the greatest challenges, the report said.

Over two-thirds (69 percent) of surveyed HR execs said their inability to attract and retain middle-skills talent frequently affected their company’s performance. About one-third (34 percent) believed that inadequate availability of middle-skills workers had undermined their productivity, with manufacturing (47 percent) and health care (35 percent) the hardest hit, according to the report.

The report includes the following recommendations:

• Business leaders must champion an employer-led skills-development system sourcing middle-skills talent. This includes workforce planning to identify skills gaps, building relationships with community and technical colleges, and internal training and internship/apprenticeship programs.

• Educators from community and technical colleges need to embrace their roles as employment partners by being attentive to developments in the jobs market and employer needs.

• Policy-makers should actively foster collaboration between employers and educators, investing in improving publicly available information on the jobs market, revising metrics for educators, and workforce development programs that highlight the role that middle-skills jobs play in a competitive U.S. economy. 

To contact the reporter on this story: Caryn Freeman in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Simon Nadel at

The report is available at