Hiring boom should benefit consultants

Thursday 4 February 2016

New figures have shown that employment opportunities are increasing, which indicates a positive climate for contractors and consultants alike.

According to figures from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), the number of vacancies being advertised by professional recruitment firms has increased, on average, by four per cent.

This marks a positive climate for contractors and consultants, with a skills shortage still putting them in a favourable position.

Recent research from recruitment consultancy Robert Half UK found that more than a third of CFOs were struggling to find and keep people with the right skills, with growing pressures on companies to offer higher salaries in the financial and accounting sectors.

The report from APSCo found that temporary and contract vacancies were in-line with permanent positions across the professional staffing market with opportunities also up by four per cent year-on-year. 

Again, vacancies within finance and accounting were particularly strong, increasing by a massive 66 per cent.

John Nurthen, executive director of global research for Staffing Industry Analysts, which compiled the report for APSCo, said: “The growth in permanent vacancies has been remarkably stable since the beginning of 2015 and macro-economic factors, geo-political threats and a very jittery stock market has, so far, not damaged demand for professional workers in the UK." 

He said the highest ever employment rate - and a government-imposed cap on sponsored skilled workers from abroad - means that many employers are now faced with a challenge when it comes to finding the skills they need to grow their business.

"While forecasters are still predicting positive economic growth this year, these skills shortages pose a clear risk to UK prosperity,” Mr Nurthen warned.

However, this combination is putting contractors and consultants in a favourable position, allowing them to charge a premium for their services.

Ann Swain, chief executive of APSCo, said: “At a time when the UK is suffering from highly publicised skill shortages across sectors as diverse as construction, education and healthcare it is no wonder that professional salaries continue to climb. 

"The war for talent is raging as organisations scramble to get their hands on the best people to facilitate future growth and productivity.”

APSCo’s figures also reveal that salaries are continuing to climb across all sectors, increasing by 5.5 per cent year-on-year. In particular, those in Consultancy and Banking experiencing boosts of 11.1 per cent and 10.4 per cent, respectively.

With vacancies for temporary roles matching that of permanent positions, the report suggests that more companies are looking towards the self-employed community when it comes to filling their skills gap.

This rise in remuneration within the professional arena exceeds the national increase in salaries as reported by the ONS which found that average earnings grew at an annual rate of 1.9% in the three months to November 2015.

Ms Swain explained how the skills shortage is helping contractors be successful. She said organisations no longer simply view contractors as a way to plug the gap for absence but recognise that having a flexible workforce allows them to change quickly and manage fluctuations in demand, as well as bringing in niche skillsets that are hard to secure on a more permanent basis.

She said the recruitment profession is under "no illusions" that contractors are the "new dominant force" in the labour market, and employment is changing to reflect this.

“Bringing on board contractors not only has the benefit of easing pressure in the short-term, but also the retention of valuable permanent staff - who may themselves be lost to the ‘gig-economy’ long-term if they are bogged down with workload pressure,” Ms Swain concluded.

By Victoria McDonnell

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