Fisher College of Business Dean Christine Poon, 2013 Roadshow for Growth, Chicago, IL


If you're like 75% of middle market executives, attracting, training, and retaining talent is a top challenge for your company. And a skills gap - or a lack of trained professionals in your area - may be the reason why.


Skills gaps can hurt your company

According to the National Center for the Middle Market's Q1 2013 Middle Market Indicator survey, over a third of middle market leaders report a skills gap in their regional economies, with sales, operations, skilled trades, and IT professionals topping the charts as the most challenging employees to hire. Middle market leaders report that the skills gap can have a significant impact on many aspects of business. Most notably, the lack of a skilled workforce makes it hard to grow - 84% of those citing a skills gap say the gap has a moderate to large impact on business growth.

Without the right people, middle market businesses experience a negative impact in other critical areas, including:

  • Productivity
  • Maintaining the business
  • Competitiveness
  • Creating a culture of innovation
  • Maintaining margins
  • Expanding internationally


Many factors contribute to the skills gap

The middle market leaders say a lack of workers with relevant experience is the crux of the problem - 78% cite this as a somewhat to highly challenging issue. Middle market companies also struggle with finding sources of talent, locating workers with relevant training, and on-boarding people who meet company expectations. To a lesser extent, companies contend with workers who don't fit into the company culture and who lack the right education for the job. Retention and high turnover is yet another workforce challenge for our survey respondents.


Strategies for bridging the gap

Many middle market firms source talent directly from their competitors (49%), online (44%), and from four-year colleges and universities (42%). Some also use search firms (36%). Less popular means of talent acquisition include community colleges, graduate school programs, accounting/vocational training programs, and foreign workers.

Middle market leaders say that improvements in the secondary educational system and partnerships with business and community colleges would help alleviate the problem - 66% believe such programs would be most effective at reducing the skills gap. In addition, 42% believe vocational training programs could help solve the problem.


A proven solution

Apple Growth Partners, a middle market accounting firm located in Northeast Ohio, is putting some of these strategies to the test. We talked with a managing partner from the 70-year old accounting firm and learned that the company's leaders are well aware of the talent gap that exists for mid-level accounting professionals in their region. They say that finding talented people is the greatest challenge their company faces.

To combat the problem, Apple Growth Partners recently hired a full-time recruiter to target college campuses and begin developing relationships with the best and brightest students as early as their sophomore year. Student candidates are aligned with alumni from their schools who currently work at Apple Growth Partners, forming powerful connections that can help the firm compete for top talent come graduation time.

Once hired, the firm is equally committed to developing its talent. Apple Growth Partners has invested in establishing an award-winning growth path that defines an associate's progression from intern all the way to partner, outlining key achievements along the way. Because of the need to fill mid-level positions as quickly as possible, the firm offers a GAP - or Growth Acceleration Program - to accelerate associates' development and quickly prepare new hires to take on additional responsibilities.

Apple Growth Partners believes that by investing in both finding and training talent, it is well positioned to deal with the skills gap and acquire the people it needs for growth and success for the next 70 years and beyond.


Learn more:

To learn more about the skills gap and other challenges facing middle market companies, download the presentation on job creation from The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business Dean Christine Poon. For the complete picture on the current state of the middle market, download our latest Middle Market Indicator.