(From Business Journal Daily) -- The CEOs of the nation's private companies are expressing renewed optimism about the economy and their intention to focus on strategic growth over the next 12 months, finds a new study. They're also making talent management a top priority but have identified skill gaps as they make hiring plans.

The majority (51%) of CEOs responding to PwC's Private Company Trendsetter Barometer say that they need to fill certain skill gaps to meet their business objectives over the next one to two years, while 49% believe they have the right skills in place.

Notably, more international marketers reported that they have skill gaps than their domestic-only peers (57% and 46%, respectively). Among private companies overall, the largest skill gaps identified were in middle management (53%) and skilled labor (48%). Those companies with skill gaps will focus on several areas over the next one to two years, including marketing and sales (65%), information technology (36%) and engineering/design (35%).

"Over the past two years, CEOs were focused on cost containment, making deep work force cuts in anticipation of a protracted recession," said Ken Esch, a partner in PwC's private company services practice. "Emerging from the recession, companies are now shifting their focus, with growth being top of mind these days and executives repositioning their companies for the long term. For many firms, this means making strategic hires in areas that will drive growth, as well as looking carefully at current people and pivotal roles that create value."

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