Experience Inflation is Killing Our Talent Pool and Here’s What We Can do About it

Estimated reading time: 3 minute(s)

When I transitioned out of the military in 2007, I was applying for jobs everywhere. I wasn’t sure “what I wanted to be when I grew up” and my background was diverse: veteran, military police, and MBA candidate.

Eventually, I narrowed my job search to project management and training. My past jobs didn’t directly match up to the actual experience of any of the jobs I was going for, but that is what I wanted to do.

I felt I was well-versed in leadership and training, but I didn’t have any “actual experience.” Rejection after rejection resulted in a great deal of frustration.

What I didn’t realize then, was that my own experience was a small sample of a much larger problem. Now, I feel something has to do done about it.

The Statistics Tell the Tale… and it’s Not a Happy Story.

At CyberUp, we engage employers in the idea of hiring “non-traditional” candidates. Oftentimes these individuals don’t have degrees or experience in the cybersecurity field.

We ask employers to hire based on potential and current skill level. We provide some training to make them work ready, but find that they sometimes fall short in the experience bucket.

While doing research on the value of apprenticeship and hiring statistics to share with potential hiring partners, I stumbled across an article written by TalentWorks about the concept of “experience inflation.” I was unfamiliar with the term, but I myself was a victim of the idea and many of our apprenticeship candidates are as well.

Here are some of the facts I learned:

  • Employers are driving the idea of “experience inflation.”
  • 61 percent of “entry-level” jobs require 3+/yrs of experience.
  • The amount of work experience required to get a job has steadily increased by 2.8 percent per year.
  • Over the next 5 – 10 years recent graduates will need almost 4 years of experience to get their first job.

What is the Disconnect?

If there are more jobs than people, why does the idea of “experience inflation” exist? If we are honest with ourselves, the job market has simply evolved.

Internships

Changes in technology have led employers to focus on hard skills and technical experience. Which seems easy enough to obtain: companies offer internships, students gain experience through said internships, and we all win.

But, internships are not for everyone. For many students, summers are reserved for working full-time to pay expenses during the school year.

Also, in many cases, internships are earned through connections to a parent or friend to get a foot in the door. Both scenarios can divide the haves and have nots widening “experience inflation” and being hired upon graduation.

Hiring Preferences

Teams are so short-staffed, that when they do get a green-light to hire someone, they must bring someone in who is “work ready.”

The hiring manager knows how busy they are, and the idea of training and mentoring a less experienced person is difficult. A work ready person means less is on their plate giving them more capacity to focus on their actual job.

Naturally, the preference towards ‘work-ready’ shortens the list of individuals who can apply, to those (a) who participated in internships or (b) a career transitioner willing to take less money upfront for long-term gains. This further separates the haves and have nots.

What Companies Can Do About it

Not all hope is lost, and I think we can fix it. First and foremost, companies can jump on the apprenticeship train.

I believe there are opportunities for companies to embrace the concept and create an onboarding program: Structured job duties, structured training, and structured mentorship. Companies can foster a learning culture and train new employees in areas of value to the company. Apprenticeship can do this.

Second, employers can expand internship programs. Our region is fortunate to have organizations like STL Youth Jobs and St. Louis Internship Program (SLIP) who partner with employers and provide structured internships to high school students. They help employers click the EASY Button while providing work experience needed to close the “experience inflation” gap.

What Individuals Can Do About it

Solving “experience inflation” doesn’t solely fall on the employer. We live in a digital world with the world’s knowledge at our fingertips. Here are two ways to positively address the trend:

Start Learning and Doing Projects

Anyone can find a class to learn how to code and gain technology skills with the click of a button. Jump in, pick a skill, find a project and get going.

The more project-oriented skills you learn, the stronger your resume becomes. We don’t have to wait for an internship or a job to gain marketable skills.

Start Networking

There are a plethora of events that happen every week in St. Louis. Technology, healthcare, geospatial, or anything else you want to know about has some sort of Meet Up event.

There must be work done from both sides, but I am confident we can collectively find a solution. As an individual leading an organization committed to the idea of closing the skills gap, and seeing others their focus efforts to close the gap, I am hopeful we will reach our goal.

The more we bridge the gap, the more we strengthen the regional workforce. Let’s increase the attractiveness of St. Louis as a place to live and work and tackle “experience inflation” to provide for a brighter economic future.

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Tony is a nonprofit nerd, an Army veteran, and an avid football fan. As Executive Director, his work at CyberUp has inspired him to become an evangelist for apprenticeship and to encourage companies to hire non-traditional talent. He loves helping others through work, and believes the St. Louis region is on the verge of a revitalization. With so much potential and great work being done how can we not?