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The skills gap is a puzzling issue for many small businesses.

In fact, according to an article in Forbes BrandVoice commissioned by BMO Harris, companies are struggling to find the right talent and dealing with a shortage of skills. And yet the U.S. unemployment rate is hovering at 8 percent and college grads are struggling to find jobs.

It seems that businesses and graduates alike are feeling a bit lost. Consider the following stats from Stephanie N. Mehta in CNN Money:

  • Only 42 percent of employers believe new graduates in the workforce are adequately prepared by their colleges or other pre-employment training programs.
  • Only 45 percent of youth think they’re prepared for jobs.

Business - percent-of-college-grads-prepared-for-job

The solution is not as simple as going back to school

As tuition costs continue to rise, advanced degrees and specialized certificate programs are becoming increasingly difficult for workers to afford. And structured education models do not necessarily yield the skills that young employees and businesses need to grow.

Employers and graduates alike need to start looking for newer, alternative forms of education to equip them with in-demand and applicable skills.

3 ways to address the talent supply shortage

Consider the following:

  • Form strategic partnerships with companies like Udacity to help connect recruiters with highly skilled candidates.
  • Have your HR department encourage employees to complete free courses by facilitating study groups and hosting lectures.
  • Search for talent and build your employees’ skills through alternative education programs such as Coursera — through which top universities are hosting courses in finance, business, computer programming, data analysis and math, free of charge — and tech startup Udacity, which has built an entire business model around the concept of free education in math, science and technology.

For more information about the role alternative education plays in filling the skills gap, check out the full article.

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