Skills Gap to Innovation Center Model  (SGIC)

Companies can’t find the talent they desperately need to grow and compete and yet so many well educated and motivated candidates are unable to find satisfying and rewarding work.  A model is described that offers a solution to these problems and can drive economic growth if intelligent and motivated candidates are assembled properly and with proper focus. 


Model for an Innovation Center that Turns the Skills Gap Problem into a Seed for Economic Development 


Problem Statement:

Can we build a model that uses the Skills Gap problem as a seed for innovation and economic development?


Yes we can. Skills Gaps exist on the leading edges of the marketplace when new technology or tools exists without an adequate talent pool available to use them to meet the market’s demand. This situation by its very nature gives rise to an entrepreneurial opportunity.

The SGIC model can be adopted by educational institutions (colleges, universities, trade schools etc. ) , local chambers or governments, existing innovation oriented companies, or small groups of investors wishing to take advantage of a market situation.


  1. Find customers who have work being impacted by the skills gap problem. Define and understand the work and theoretically what is required to meet their demand.
  2. Partner with those customers to create PODs to address the gap work. Partnering means devise a POD where risks and rewards are shared amongst all involved (customers, educational institution, investors, students). Customers pay for services but no more than they would if they had hired the non available employees in demand today AND they have a chance to invest in a spinoff.
  3. Build the POD, Complete the work for the customer and evolve and improve the work methods so that this solution can be sold to other customers with similar skills gap issues.
  4. Market to other customers and spin off the POD to a profit generating business.

The model described utilizes resources available from educational institutions ( interns, specialists, experts, alumni, local community talent) and Subject Matter Experts from industry who leverage their expertise through the POD,  as well as management resources. The design and build of the POD is essential for the success of the endeavor. Teams are recruited, assembled, and managed for success. The delivered work product satisfies the customer’s needs.

PODs offer an efficient way to construct projects and select talent. PODs can be adjusted as required to address workload and may change depending on demand requirements. A POD is designed to allow fluidity of resources both within the POD or within the organization which manages the POD. An SGIC may consist of multiple PODs addressing multiple customer’s needs and may work with multiple educational institutions, chambers, investors as needed. The key element is to be able to identify gap skills, understand the work needed to be done, recruit and assemble efficient teams, and manage them for success. When the model is working and a POD is successful it can be spunoff to pursue market opportunities.

Educational institutions (colleges, universities, trade schools etc. ) – are natural environment for this model to work as long as it can remain market oriented. The intern positions are very competitive in only the very best motivated and committed resources are utilized. Interns receive intern wages and a potential for profit sharing as well as job offers from customers or the spin off that can result from the work.  All you need to start with is one customer with real needs that are due to the skills gap problem.

Local Chambers or Governments – have a vested interest in economic development but often lack the funding and entrepreneurial experience to put a solution like this together. But they do have wide connections with business and resources and with the proper organization could utilize resources from local educational institutions, local workforce or retraining centers, and a customer base. They provide a playing field that is ripe for the picking.  All you need to start with is one customer with real needs that are due to the skills gap problem.

Existing Innovation Oriented Companies – could innovate with their own but separate solution taking advantage of educational institutions resources, other local resources as found at Chambers or governments, as well as their own internal employees that are very capable but may have dated skills. Such a POD could be developed to address unmet demand due to a shortage of resources with skills gap capabilities. In conclusion the POD could be spun off and become its own profit center. In this case you are your own customer.

Investors – could be brought together and build their own PODs to address market needs they want to address. Again utilizing resources as needed to make sure their customers needs are met. All you need to start with is one customer with real needs that are due to the skills gap problem.


  1. All you need to start with is one customer with real needs that are due to the skills gap problem.  Put together an effort to identify one customer with a gap skill need.
  2. KNOW YOUR RESOURCES. Find a SME(s) to understand the work and resources required.
  3. Develop a best and brightest internship program
  6. LOOK FOR OTHER CUSTOMERS and manage / deliver similar work.
  7. SPIN OFF START UPS. Consider spinoffs and startups with opportunities from discovered demand.


The Skills Gap gap provides a unique opportunity for entrepreneurial or innovation oriented educational institutions, agencies, investors and companies to create new solutions to solve a problem that is growing. The SGIC model provides a strong direct communication between industry and  educational institutions and can assure that industry’s future needs are met because there is a profit incentive to do so.


MANAGEMENT –  role to manage the workflow and the pods as well as provide other administrative tasks.

BUSINESS THINK TANK – role to make business decisions about the direction of the work to be pursued, assignment to undertake and potential spinoffs that follow. Consists of 3 – 7 entrepreneurs and business professionals (and their interns). Will develop a methodology for decision making with will be used by other pods in their work. May utilize Business Model Canvas and/or other tools to evaluate and catalogue opportunities.

MARKETING / SALES/ COMMUNICATIONS –  role is to develop business for the University Economic Development Program. Consists of a business Director and team of interns. Will create methodology for developing leads, pursuit and closure of business as would a Big 6 consulting firm. Utilize CRM (customer relationship management) system to develop relationships with business leaders in key industries. Seek opportunities in areas who may value the service offerings of the University Economic Development Program ( innovation, intellectually challenging, advanced technology or methods, and areas which require resources not typically found within a company). Will develop state of the art social media, SEO, blogging practices to advance the charter of the University Economic Development Program.

ANALYSTS – role to analyse situations and problems, propose solutions and do the work as needed. Will create a methodology for analysing and proposing solutions as well as work delivery. Will consist of a Director and teams of interns as well as Subject Matter Experts (SME’s). Will work with Marketing/ Sales / Communications to win business and promote accomplishments.

WEB DEVELOPERS / PROGRAMMERS – role to program and produce necessary tools, websites needed for the delivery and promotion of work. Consists of a Direct, SME’s and interns. Will create a methodology to anticipate and deliver quality solutions to support University Economic Development Program’s work.

ENGINEERS – role to engineer solutions as required.  Consists of a Technical Director, SME’s and interns. Will create a methodology to anticipate and deliver quality solutions to support University Economic Development Program’s work.

PROJECT MANAGERS – role to manage the projects of the work being done from discovery phase to work delivery. Will develop a PM methodology and reporting and be responsible for project success. Reports to management pod. Consists of SME’s, interns.

SME’s – role to provide subject matter expertise to the University Economic Development Program and clients. May consist of faculty and staff or outside experts. May be selected to help win business and for delivery. Can be provided on a part time basis. Typically will take the role of mentoring interns who will be under his or her direction.

OTHER – as needed


Develop a flexible department interface capability which would make it easy for ANY college or department in the university to offer needed expertise and internship opportunities. The objective is to add value to the customer solution in one of the roles that exists.


Structure and opportunity will help to attract strong students into the program and the University. When a research Institute student graduates from the program they will likely be employed by the research Institute as a mentor or key employee or by some of the customers for which they have done work. If you develop a good working structure and mix great mentors with top students you can deliver great work. Internships and co-ops have to be structured to allow for continuity in the work of the Institute and for the growth of the student.


A college student’s perspective

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Business leaders find colleges not preparing students :


Startup America:

Why startups fail, according to their founders


Author: Rick Zabor

Engineer / Scientist / Researcher turned Recruiter in 1987. Interested in the best way to do things and mixing with people who have passions for life. Writes on topics important to building winning teams and personal growth and accomplishment. Connect with me on Linkedin. Lives in Atlanta, GA.