Long-term demand for contractors set to rise

Monday 20 July 2015

The latest results from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI)/Pearson Education and Skills Survey 2015 have suggested that contractors are likely to experience a long-term rise in demand for their services, as a result of a growing skills shortage across UK industries.

Of the 310 companies who responded to the survey, 68 per cent said that they would need more highly skilled staff to ensure future growth, but 55 per cent worried that they would struggle to find the right people to fill these roles.

Such a state of high demand and low supply could mean that experienced contractors would be well-positioned to take advantage of a busy and potentially lucrative marketplace for those with the necessary skills, along with a proven track record.

The sectors most likely to need more skilled workers were science, engineering and technology (74 per cent), construction (73 per cent) and manufacturing (69 per cent). These are all industries which are expected to see substantial growth as part of a national economic recovery, increasing the need for a recruitment drive for highly skilled people.

Of particular interest are the STEM industries, where a substantial minority of respondents reported a shortage of workers at a variety of levels, from entry-level apprentice positions (20 per cent) to roles that require over five years of industry experience (32 per cent). When those anticipating recruitment problems in the next three years are included, 52 per cent of STEM employers expect to struggle with a shortage of skilled workers, or are already experiencing it.

While many have hoped that a new wave of apprentices would help to supply industries in the coming years, it has emerged that only two per cent of apprenticeships begun in the 2013/14 academic year were higher-level qualifications, which are regarded as an equivalent to university study.

While the chancellor George Osborne has announced further funding for apprenticeships in the latest budget, there are still questions over provisions for higher-level courses.

Katja Hall, deputy director-general of the CBI, said: “The new levy announced in the budget may guarantee funding for more apprenticeships, but it’s unlikely to equate to higher quality or deliver the skills that industry needs. Levies on training already exist in the construction sector where two-thirds of employers are already reporting skills shortages.”

These concerns were echoed by the respondents, who were unsure about their ability to source skilled employees, despite 66 per cent already having an apprenticeship programme: a figure that rose to 76 per cent for manufacturing companies.

Overall, these figures suggest that the outlook for contractors is likely to remain positive as the UK works to come up with more sustainable solutions to the present skills shortage. The situation is likely to become more acute as the economic recovery continues to gather pace and more companies look to expand.

This presents valuable opportunities for contractors and freelancers to build their relationships with clients, and introduce them to the mutually beneficial practice of contracting.


By Victoria McDonnell

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