The much-contested phenomenon of the skills gap is becoming more prevalent than ever as baby boomers retire and millennials step into their shoes. Rather than closing, the skills gap is actually becoming greater. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 4.7 million job openings in June – but more than 50 percent of employers report that they can’t find qualified applicants to fill these positions.

According to most experts, the main reason the skills gap exists is that educators have failed. While college offerings in the liberal arts continue to flourish, employers by and large don’t recruit from those fields. Kindergarten and elementary school educators are expected to begin preparing students to enter the workforce from the very beginning – especially with the recent implementation of Common Core standards.

The skills gap doesn’t only refer to job-specific or technical skills; rather, employers want to see critical thinkers who know how to communicate effectively and work as members of a team to solve major problems. Many companies don’t want to invest in a large amount of on-the-job training, believing they won’t experience a positive ROI.

Unfortunately, this reality puts the onus on job seekers to better their skillsets – and technology is a great starting place. Read on for some concrete tips about using technology to close your personal skills gap.

Research Skills You Want to Learn

Search engines are our friends – and are as good a place as any to start. There is a bevy of articles on the Internet about how to do virtually anything, and it’s up to you to do the research. If you’re committed to learning – which includes the potential of messing up in the process – there’s no better way than doing some DIY.

This goes for skills like critical thinking and collaboration as well. Not only will you find articles to help your journey into metacognition – that is, thinking about how you think – but you’ll also find free and low-cost e-books about a wide variety of topics.

Look – or Apply – for a Job on the Go

Did you know 83 percent of job seekers use mobile phones or tablets to aid in the job search – and 45 percent of candidates have actually applied for jobs with the use of their mobile devices? While many companies’ websites aren’t yet optimized for mobility, joining the ranks of millions of mobile job applicants will help motivate them to accommodate an increasingly on-the-go world.

Enroll in an Online Program

If you want to gain skills, the best way to do so is to through formal education or training. Online learning is a great option because it allows students to be responsible for their own education. If you’re looking for an affordable way to learn remotely, there are multiple online programs available in virtually any field.

Whether you want to beef up your Photoshop skills or participate in a webinar series about effective communicating, there’s a course or training for you. There are even programs that allow you to obtain a state license for various professions. And, as an added bonus, these trainings are excellent resume builders that concretely show a skillset you have mastered.

Start Freelancing

Freelancing is a great way to break into an industry, especially if you have relevant experience. For example, if you studied a language intensively in college, you may be qualified to offer online translation services, while if you studied film production, you could become a videographer for hire. Look around a little for services like oDesk and others that pair freelance workers with clients to get a feel for what people are looking for.

Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and career blogger sharing advice on finding happiness and success in the work world. Her career advice blog, Punched Clocks, is all about career development and helping you land the job of your dreams. You can find her dishing out advice with a side of wit on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+, too.

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