The Consumer Technology Association’s (CTA) second annual Future of Work survey found 92 percent of its small business members have a growing need for skilled tech workers—a six point gain—while optimism about finding qualified candidates shrunk two points to 7 percent. In addition, 74 percent of respondents say it will be tough to find candidates with appropriate skills, three points higher than last year’s total.

“Although the nation’s unemployment rate is at a nearly 50-year low, there are still millions of unfilled jobs because the skilled talent isn’t there,” notes Jennifer Taylor, vice president, U.S. Jobs, CTA. “The widening skills gap is one of the biggest hurdles facing American business owners and should be addressed immediately with expanded non-traditional pathways to education if we want to remain a global leader in innovation.”

In the optical industry, prescription labs are among the companies where the need for skilled workers is increasing. To get a fix on the situation I spoke with lab industry veteran Warren Meyer.

“New lens processing technologies have increased the need for a greater understanding of digital connectivity and engineering. They require very high levels of calibration and maintenance to operate correctly,” observes Meyer, who is now opening a new lab, Sierra Optical, in Reno, Nev. “We need to find and hire folks who have strong technical backgrounds and train them to apply these skills to the ‘soft’ technology of optical fit and finish. It’s really a pretty rare combination. We attempt to take a completely custom manufacturing need and apply ‘production line’ philosophy to it.”

Although optical stores and optometric offices require a different skill set than labs—except where in-office lens processing is concerned—they also need employees with tech skills to manage the increasingly sophisticated practice management tools that many now use.

I’d like to hear from 20/20 readers about their experiences with hiring employees with tech skills. What jobs require the highest level of technical skill? How hard or easy is it to find qualified applicants? Do you offer on-the-job training, or do you expect prospective employees to have basic tech skills? I welcome your responses.

Andrew Karp
Group Editor, Lenses and Technology
akarp@jobson.com