The Reality of the Skills Gap

Every year, many hopeful and promising students graduate from institutions of higher learning, eager to join the workforce and contribute their quota to national development. Some estimates say that Nigeria’s tertiary education institutions produce an average of 500,000 graduates annually and a Jobberman survey taken by almost 90,000 people, says that 47% of the Nigeria’s university graduates are unemployed. When you consider both unemployment levels and number of graduates produced annually (and the fact that the number of graduates produced annually will keep growing), it becomes obvious that the competition for available jobs will continually be quite stiff.


Why are many people unable to find work? Why do many employers struggle to find entry level employees with basic skills? A good argument could be that the number of available jobs keep reducing as many businesses scale down or close shop based on the current state of the economy but does that mean that no one is hiring? I dare say no, there are still organisations who can afford to hire new staff so what could be the issue?


Employers often complain about the lack of employable graduates, citing that many of these graduates do not even possess basic workplace skills and attitudes such as communication skills, analytical ability, and initiative, and in many more cases, the required technical skills. Of the few graduates who do end up employed, many are put through various kinds of formal and informal retraining programmes by their employers in order to bring them up to par with organizational skills requirements. Why are many graduates unprepared for the workplace?


The truth is that many of our schools do not prepare graduates for the workplace and many graduates also do not take the initiative to prepare themselves for work. Many assume that their basic education is sufficient to get them the jobs they require forgetting that the competition for available jobs is extremely stiff. At the root of it all is the skills gap.


A skills gap refers to the difference between the skills required by the market place and the skills that employees and potential employees have to offer. Realising that a gap exists is the first step, how then does one bridge the gap in order to enhance his/ her job search? You conduct a skills gap analysis to help you identify the skills you need to meet your career goals and your level of proficiency in those skills. Thus, the questions to ask are;

  • What do I want to do?
  • What skills do I need to have to do what I want to do?
  • What are the generic skills required by majority of employers irrespective of role?
  • Do I have some of those skills and if so, how good am I in those skills?
  • How can I improve on my existing skills?
  • How can I get the skills I need?


Students and early graduates must consistently seek out opportunities to develop and enhance the skills they need for life. Many will say it’s hard to get the first job that will provide the learning platform but there are also a lot of other opportunities one can take before that. Consider internships, volunteer opportunities, involvement in student bodies and independent projects, etc. everyone has an opportunity to acquire a level of skill in most areas they seek but the reality is that many are not taking advantage of the obvious ones around them. For example, if you want to develop your writing skills, write for the campus paper, learn to take minutes of meetings, spend time developing good term papers. If you want to develop organizational skills, plan a meeting or an event. Most importantly, learn how to use the computer and the internet.


While you are job hunting, do not be idle. Find opportunities to develop and use your skills, the idler one is, the greater the chances of one’s skills diminishing. Don’t wait to struggle for the available jobs, take your career in your own hands.