The world is changing profoundly. For the first time in two decades, there are as many open jobs in the country as there are unemployed people. Yet 67 percent of employers say they can’t find qualified candidates for open positions.

That includes employers of STEM-related fields, even though these fields claim the fastest-growing and best-paying jobs. This country cannot afford for that growth to stall and must continue to develop qualified talent in alignment with businesses’ needs.

Currently, 54 percent of high school juniors and seniors report a lack of proper support to help match their occupational interests to available careers. Our country can do better, and employers can lead the way.

Here are three ways employers can connect skills to jobs and create career paths for tomorrow’s workforce.

1. Learn your talent needs

There are old practices in the hiring world that should change. “We need to hire someone with a four-year degree” is one of them. To avoid missing out on the right candidates, employers must focus on the unique skills and competencies required for jobs well before writing job descriptions. 

2. Embrace partnerships with educators

Employers must assume a new kind of leadership role in these collaborations so that students in the classroom learn the right skills for success in today’s economy, especially for in-demand, evolving STEM needs. These partnerships can be difficult to launch; however, they enable a critical connection between education and career on a student’s pathway.

3. Develop new pathways to opportunity

Although high school graduation rates are at an all-time high, many employees enter the workforce without the skills they need to succeed. For that reason, one of the main things employers screen for in the hiring process is work experience. Employers who offer earn-and-learn pathways such as apprenticeships are helping bridge that gap.

America’s global competitiveness hinges on its ability to develop its workforce and empower its workers to pursue fulfilling career opportunities. In this discussion about workforce challenges, business and education leaders must come together to unlock solutions.