Reskilling: a Game-Changing Opportunity for Recruitment Agencies

What’s the top hiring challenge for staffing and recruitment agencies in 2019 and beyond? It’s the skills shortage and nothing else is particularly close. Seventy-three percent of all surveyed global recruitment professionals ranked it as one of their top hiring challenges. The next biggest challenge—accelerating pay increases—received nearly half as many votes.

Skills shortages are a well-documented hurdle for recruitment agencies—surveyed staffing professionals cited them as their top challenge in 2015, 2016, and 2017—but the problem appears to be getting worse.

There are few signs that the skills shortage will solve itself. Unemployment is at historic lows—the first time in the history of labor statistics, there are 6.7 million openings for jobs and 6.3 million individuals that are looking for work—and projections for the future illustrate a widening talent gap in key industries: 3.5 million STEM jobs need to be filled by 2025.

Crisis or Opportunity?

While these confluent factors certainly create difficulties for agencies in an increasingly candidate-driven market, they also present a historic opportunity. The shortage has created a demand for recruitment agencies, and with it, an opening for these agencies to provide an unprecedented level of value. Recruitment agencies can do more than place talent; they can create talent by reskilling candidate pools.

We’ve got a talent opportunity to not only be the talent enablers but to really be part of the talent ecosystem.”

Richard Wahlquist, American Staffing Association

Reskilling—sometimes referred to as retraining and upskilling—is the process of helping workers turn outmoded skills into ones that are highly applicable to the modern world. By investing in online courses, training academies, and apprenticeship programs, recruitment agencies can transform the careers and lives of candidates, all while filling positions through the creation of newly-qualified talent pools

The recruitment industry loses half a billion dollars in annual turnover. Imagine if we took employees from lower-wage jobs and reskilled those people. This could be a trillion dollar industry with a very different profile. This isn’t a crisis, this is a huge opportunity for all of us.”

Be a Reskilling Visionary

Although reskilling provides one solution to a very important problem, few recruitment agencies are making serious efforts to incorporate it into their plans. Forty-seven percent of surveyed professionals predict an increase in reskilling efforts, but just five percent said reskilling would be a top priority for their agency. In fact, out of 16 options presented to our survey respondents, reskilling came in near the very bottom.

That’s not to say that all recruitment agencies are sleeping on reskilling. Two demographics of our survey respondents were significantly more likely to express interest in reskilling: enterprise companies and technology-savvy companies. In fact, a projected increase in workforce reskilling was highly correlated with an understanding of AI. In other words, many of the most successful and/or innovative agencies are embracing reskilling.

Major players in the industry are already getting started—Adecco invested heavily to acquire the education organization General Assembly. Adecco is seizing the reskilling opportunity by aligning with a company whose mission is to radically transform careers through training, and we applaud them.

Our clients are looking for partners to improve access to scarce 21st-century skills and help navigate workforce transformation. Demand for digital skills is growing but supply remains constrained. The rise of automation also creates a critical need to re-skill workers, with as many as 375 million employees globally needing to transition to new roles by 2030.

How to Get Started

Reskilling isn’t just limited to large firms. There are many ways, both large and small, to incorporate reskilling into your growth strategy - from focusing on one underdeveloped skill set amongst your candidates, to pinpointing a particular job that needs filling and working backward to identify ways to evolve the skills of your available candidates. To get off the ground, here are four steps you can take:


  1. Evaluate Your Open Reqs
    What percentage of jobs in the same skill sets, and what trends can you identify as far as popularity of emerging skills and competencies?

  2. Create an “Aptitude Translation” Chart
    Use your recruitment expertise to map the skills keywords that characterize available candidates from your ATS to jobs for which they may one day be relevant, if given proper training.Is a candidate returning from active military duty? He or she may have innate leadership ability, logistical insight, or sales acumen. Continue this exercise across your candidate database.

  3. Consider Hidden Talent Pools
    Returning mothers, service members, and candidates with special needs are phenomenal sources of talent and they have been traditionally overlooked. Don’t ignore these groups when you are initiating your reskilling efforts.

  4. Invest in Your Talent
    Reskilling hinges on making an investment in educating the candidates with which you work with to ensure they can be effective in new, highly sought-after roles. As their guide and partner, you have the power to show them that they have the capacity for change, and that your clients should trust their pure aptitude to tackle new challenges.

Many employers are saying, if you just identify who the learners are, we’ll take it from there.

Putting in the effort upfront to reskill your candidates will pay off tenfold. You’ll fill more jobs, keep clients satisfied, and ultimately transform the course of your candidates’ lives. What are you waiting for?

Understanding Machine Learning and AI: We’re Halfway There
Are you leveraging AI to better source and reskill candidates? Learn more about AI in the staffing industry in 2019.

Alexandra Barca

Senior Marketing Manager


Alexandra Barca is Bullhorn’s Senior Marketing Manager. She oversees demand generation, marketing programs, and business development. She’s an avid learner and passionate about developing new skills.