Employers use contractors to fill skills gap

Friday 26 September 2014

For limited companies and umbrella company contractors with very specific skill sets, now is a great time to find work as it seems employers are increasingly turning to these workers to address skills shortages.

According to the latest Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) Jobs Outlook, 79 per cent of employers are turning to agency workers to gain access to strategic skills in the short term.

During August, demand for contractors continued to rise as many employers turned to these workers, unable to find adequately skilled professionals in search of a permanent job.

What's more, it seems that this is paying off for employers as nine out of ten said they were satisfied with the quality of work from the contractors they were hiring.

Chief executive officer of the REC Kevin Green said: "It’s clear that skills shortages are affecting the way in which employers use agency workers and increasing numbers are now relying on temporary staff to provide short-term access to strategic skills. This is a trend that is likely to continue as it becomes increasingly difficult to source the skilled permanent staff that businesses need to grow."

“There is some great news here for our industry as recruiters continue to successfully adapt to the challenge of skills shortages with more than nine out of ten employers reporting they are satisfied with the quality of candidates they are being provided by recruiters.”

In terms of the amount of work available, it seems that this should be easier to get as business stability appears to be returning. The statistics show that the portion of business who have been cutting costs on their workforce by freezing headcounts, reducing hours or pay and making staff redundant has halved. During August 2013, this was measured at 33 per cent while the figure fell to 17 per cent in August 2014.

Moving forward, the amount of temporary staff that companies intend to employ is set to increase in some areas. Over the next three months, 43 per cent say they wish to increase the amount of temporary staff they employ, while 40 per cent say they plan to raise their temporary staff levels over the next four to 12 months.

The report shows that employers are currently not turning to contractors as a means of managing the amount of people employed at one time or to cover absences of permanent staff. This in turn could have an effect on how long contracts are and the kinds of skills profiles that contractors need, particularly with their talents now becoming the main focus.

Fewer contractors are also seeking to gain permanent work, suggesting that being a self employed professional is preferable for many.

During November 2013, 91 per cent of employers said they had permanently taken on board one of their contractors. However, during August 2014, this figure dropped to 55 per cent.

The areas where employers are struggling most to source talent among contractors is in the technical and engineering sectors.

By Victoria McDonnell

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