‘Britain hit by the worst skills shortage for 30 years’

‘Skills shortages holding back the UK’s economic recovery’


At the time of writing, the unemployment rates in the UK were averaging out at around 5.5%, while the north east of England was experiencing an 8.5% unemployment rate.

Although these figures are low and holding steady, this equates to a massive 1.81 million people without jobs in this country. However, we continue to see a similar sombre tone in the media, with headlines warning of the national skills shortage and the negative affect it’s having on our businesses and the UK’s productivity.

If there is a lack of skilled labour, it generally has a knock on effect with wages, with employers increasing salaries in order to attract the highly sort after candidates. As well as this, productivity falls behind European counterparts and the economy suffers even more.

What’s the Cause of the Shortage of Skills?

Opinion is divided on the cause of the skills shortage. Just like fashions, changes in the demand for a particular industry can fluctuate. In other circumstances, certain job roles (read: people) can become defunct, replaced by machines or just cheaper, quicker and simpler software.

Also, as the workforce starts to demand more benefits and equal pay, employers are slow to react to the needs of their employees and will therefore see a shortage in candidates to fill the vacancies.

Demographic and economic changes can also factor in the causes of missing talent. We’ve seen a reduction in apprenticeships in recent years. Couple that with the cost of living rises and low paid traineeships, the apprenticeship positions that are left are just not attracting the right candidate.

The Employer’s Needs

In today’s fast paced environment, employers don’t always have the time or the funds to train new starters in the skills that are required to make their business run smoothly. This can cause them to be more selective. This is itself isn’t a bad thing, but excluding candidates who do not have the relevant experience, but who do have the potential, is a bad thing.

A Different Entry Level

Rightly or wrongly, a university education is still often seen as the best form of training. Some argue that the traditional route through the education system is outdated, with little contribution from industry leaders into the content of any courses.

With 40% of new UK university leavers still on the lookout for a job 6 months after graduating, the need for relevant experience and employer feedback is more important than ever.

If vocational routes into a particular field or industry were seen as being just as relevant and valued, the scope would open up. Similarly, if work experience and transferable skills were to be given equal prominence where possible, in theory employers will gain a workforce of professional people with a broader background.

The Government has been investing in traineeships to help ease the gap. However, employers in sectors where the skills gap is bigger have been demanding greater input. Employers are best placed to determine the requirements for the jobs they have on offer, so they must get involved in creating these training schemes, to ensure they are setting the groundwork for getting the right candidates and skills and experience for the jobs available.

Job boards and recruiters can also contribute by educating employers on finding the right candidate and not to automatically dismiss one that isn’t, on the face of things, ticking all the right boxes.

There is a quote that employers shouldn’t be scared of paying for their people to be trained in case they leave to go to another company. They should be more worried that they stay without being trained.

If employers see that the investment in training new blood is worthwhile, the skills gap will continue to close.

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