As the U.S. economic recovery accelerates and the country moves closer to full employment, companies face increasing challenges from a shortage of qualified workers across all industries. More than half of the nation's businesses have vacant positions for which they cannot find skilled talent, according to a 2014 CareerBuilder study. Positions that remain unfilled for an extended period put pressure on corporate profits and increase the risk of a company losing its competitive advantage. For every position that sits vacant for more than three months, a business loses between $14,000 and $25,000, CareerBuilder reported. Currently, 35 percent of U.S. companies have jobs that have been vacant for 12 weeks or more. 

Staffing agencies and HR outsourcing services can help businesses shore up an anemic workforce and protect revenue. As companies look to fill critical positions with workers who possess the knowledge and capabilities necessary to perform a job, here are a few ways in which employers can help close the widening skills gap sooner than later:

Know the skills you need and those you can teach
Tom Leung, CEO and founder of Poachable, an anonymous career matchmaking service, believes that companies could help close the gulf and fill positions by reexamining their recruitment strategies, job requirements and training programs.

"Do you want to widen your net to find great candidates with skills that will translate? Or do you spend months, thousands of dollars and lose productivity trying to find the 'Cinderella' candidate for whom the glass slipper fits perfectly?" Leung told CIO.

For many employers, it can be difficult to differentiate between some of the critical skills a candidate must have to perform in a role and the desired abilities that can be developed on the job. Staffing agencies and HR outsourcing services can be valuable resources for companies, in terms of helping to refine job requirements to identify both "Cinderellas" and top-notch people whose skills can be elevated through training.

Utilize contract workers
Contract workers can play a vital role in helping a company protect profits from vacant positions and gain competitive advantage. Companies struggling to fill specialized jobs can benefit from these highly skilled professionals, who possess the unique abilities and expertise necessary for a specific job. These types of employees can help businesses temporarily bridge the skills gap for a single project, build the capabilities of an entire team by increasing the knowledge of permanent employees or supervise staff training to enhance department-wide capacity.

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