I was privileged to attend the annual EMSI conference in Coeur D’Alene, ID, from September 10 to 12. EMSI is a company that provides labor market data that we use to analyze our programs. They gather data from a number of government sources, like the Census Bureau, and from job postings and resumes found in many different online locations. At the conference, I was able to attend sessions hosted by my colleagues in higher education and also sessions focused on other industries. While I was there, I learned several new techniques that I can use in my work at Cochise College.

One interesting technique I learned was how to compare the skills required in job postings to those claimed in resumes, an analysis technique called a “skills gap.” If employers are looking for certain skills but resumes do not list those skills then that is a gap that may be able to be addressed in formal classes or through non-credit seminars.

For example, since we offer a Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) program I analyzed the skills gap for that profession as found in Cochise County job postings. EMSI divides skills into two groups: Hard and Common. Hard skills are defined as skills that are “…highly technical, subject-matter specific, or acquired through on-the-job training.” Common skills are defined as skills that include “… character traits such as ethics, assertiveness, or positive attitude…abilities like critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving…and basic interpersonal skills such as leadership, cooperation, diversity awareness, and persuasion.” The first graph below shows the hard skills most commonly requested on job postings compared to how commonly those skills are found in resumes and profiles.

Not surprisingly, nearly 80% of the job postings required nursing skills but those were reported on about 30% of the resumes and profiles. I’m confident that our nursing students are learning nursing skills, but they do not seem to be doing a good job of reporting that on their resumes and profiles. This may be an indicator of poor resume-writing skills more than a gap in their job training. A little over 20% of the job postings included “clinical works” while no resumes or profiles listed that skill. Again, that may be nothing more than a reflection of poor resume-writing skills. Almost 20% of the job postings included “medical records” while that did not show up at all in resumes or profiles. To be honest, I’m not sure if that skill means only being able to read a patient’s chart (so the gap is a resume-writing issue) or if there is some sort of record-keeping skill required that we are not providing (a training gap).

The following graph shows the top common skills.

It is easy to see that very few resumes and profiles included any sort of common skills. I suspect that this is a resume-writing problem more than an LPN course deficiency. For example, all of our LPN students learn how to use a computer to record patient information, but we do not identify that as a “computer literacy” skill. Similarly, all of our LPN students learn to communicate with their patients, doctors, families, and other people, but we do not go out of our way to point out that this is a “communication” skill.

In the end, it seems to me that it may be helpful for our students to get a short “how to write a resume” class somewhere near the end of their program. That class could include common resume writing tips, but could also use the information in this skills gap analysis to remind students of all the hard and soft skills they learned while in our program.