UKCES: One in five vacancies linked to skills shortage

Friday 31 January 2014

Vacancies as a result of the skills shortage now account for one in five of all jobs posted, up from one in six in 2009.

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills' (UKCES) Employer Skills Survey revealed that more and more employers are now unable to find people with the right skills and qualifications to do jobs.

This, according to UKCES, may hold back Britain's economic recovery, despite the fact vacancy rates are now back to pre-recession levels in England.

'Skills shortage vacancies' are growing twice as fast as other jobs, however. Over the last four years, they have risen from 63,100 to 124,800. At the same time, total job vacancies have risen 45 per cent to 559,600.

Douglas McCormick, a commissioner at UKCES and managing director of rail business Atkins, said: "Whilst the rise in the number of vacancies is a good sign that the economy is recovering, there’s a real possibility that businesses might not be able to make the most of the upturn because they don’t have the right people.

"This shows that businesses need to start thinking about planning their talent pipeline now – not waiting until they are unable to fulfil contracts because of a lack of skilled staff."

Despite the skills shortage, companies are yet to put a proper focus on training. While the number of firms that provide training for staff is back to pre-recession levels, the amount spent on staff development has decreased from £1,680 per employee in 2011 to £1,590 in 2013.

Meanwhile, 48 per cent of employers across the UK admit that they employ people with higher levels of skills and knowledge needed for the job at hand.

"Some employers might be trying to solve their skills problems by choosing to recruit highly-skilled and qualified staff to do very basic jobs," Mr McCormick explained.

"Under-using people’s skills like this risks a bored and demotivated workforce. By providing high-quality and job-specific training, businesses can make sure they have the skilled workforce they need, as well as inspiring loyalty and keeping their staff motivated."

Limited company setups are likely to come in greater demand as firms also look to contractors to fill the skills void. Indeed, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation's latest JobsOutlook report revealed 38 per cent of employers plan to increase their use of agency workers over the next year.

UKCES' research found skills shortages are more prevalent in certain occupations and sectors. Trades like plumbing and health and social care are experiencing a significant talent gap at the moment.

There is also significant variation across the country, with the most acute shortage in Scotland. Indeed, north of the border 25 per cent of vacancies are caused by a lack of skills. The problem is less pronounced in Northern Ireland, where skills shortage vacancies make up just 19 per cent.

Matthew Hancock, minister for skills and enterprise, said: "With a record number of people in jobs as our economy continues to grow we must have a skilled workforce equipped to work in a modern economy and compete effectively in the global race."

By Victoria McDonnell

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