Contractor vacancies beginning to stabilize; time to get competitive?

Friday 6 June 2014

The employment market is becoming increasingly robust as the UK economy strengthens, but while permanent vacancies are rising, contractors' positions are starting to stabilise.

Research from the APSCo shows that hiring for temporary workers is slowing down, suggesting that the self-employed may need to get more competitive if they want to put themselves ahead of their competitors in the future.

Contractor vacancies increased by just ten per cent, according to the body. Conversely, the permanent market has experienced something of a resurgence and headcounts are growing at the fastest rate since before the recession.  Indeed, over the last year vacancies in the engineering and financial services sector have increased by 33 per cent and 38 per cent respectively.

Nevertheless, demand remains broadly high for both permanent and temporary workers across all professional sectors.

This has led to a rise in salaries, with pay increasing by more than nine per cent in some sectors year-on-year.

Ann Swain, chief executive of APSCo, commented: "The latest GDP results, coupled with our monthly data showing impressive growth across all professional sectors, makes me confident that the remainder of 2014 will be prosperous for employers and employees alike.  

"Despite this, however, organisations do need to plan ahead to ensure they have the right talent on board to fuel growth in the coming months. Effective talent attraction and retention strategies will be fundamental as we progress throughout the year."

Contractors can certainly help when it comes to getting the right talent on board, providing businesses with highly-skilled, flexible labour.

However, with temporary vacancies on the decline, the self-employed will need to take steps to ensure they can compete against their contemporaries.

This may include upskilling, seeking professional body accreditation or simply increasing networking capabilities.

In the IT sector, the 16th Harvey Nash CIO (chief information officer) Survey showed that contractors need to improve their digital skills and experience to help companies fill the skills gap.

Already in the UK 59 per cent of CIOs are concerned about the lack of talent. Unfortunately, this gap is only going to get bigger and 60 per cent of technology leaders have experienced a skills shortage within their teams that has prevented them from keeping up with competitors.

This isn't unique to the IT sector and key industries such as engineering are also suffering from a lack of available talent.

John Nurthen, executive director of international development for Staffing Industry Analysts, who compile the report for APSCo, said: "I don’t think anyone would now doubt that the economy is in an upward trajectory. The danger for employers is that there can be a lapse before they adjust their outlook to deal with the changed environment – an employment market where power is swinging to the jobseeker and away from the job provider."  

According to Engineering the Future, part of the problem - in the engineering sector at least - is misconceptions among would-be candidates about what to expect.

In the report 'An Insight into Modern Manufacturing' it was revealed that there is a lack of understanding among young people about engineering.

By Victoria McDonnell

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