London employers forced to take second-best staff

A skills shortage among London’s workforce is increasing the number of hard-to-fill vacancies, forcing employers to accept less experienced and under-qualified recruits, according to a new report by Focus Central London.

The survey of more than 1,200 London companies and recruitment agencies shows that 32 per cent reported difficulties in filling vacancies, an increase of 7 per cent on last year.

Report author Dominic Hanley said, “This is the highest figure for hard-to-fill vacancies we’ve seen, and reflects how tight the labour market has become because of low unemployment.

“Unless companies learn to deal with skills gaps, they may become unable to compete.”

A lack of skilled applicants was by far the main reason given for hard-to-fill positions, accounting for 42 per cent of the total, according to the report.

The same problem accounted for less than one-third of the reasons given last year. One in eight managers said there is already a shortage in their own workforce.

The hardest hit sector is the construction industry, with more than half of employers reporting difficulties in recruitment. One-third of hard-to-fill vacancies are for clerical and secretarial positions, affecting the business services and finance sectors in particular.

Don Ward, chief executive of Construction Industry Board, said, “There is a real problem. Basically, there is more work in other areas of the country. On top of this there are the long-running problems of offering people the right career structures and rewards to get them and keep them in the industry. We have a massive job to do to change the reality of the industry.”

Hanley advises employers to be proactive in solving the skills gap problem, or face the consequences.

He said, “Companies need to implement effective work training programmes, such as Modern Apprenticeships and In- vestors in People, or things will continue to get worse.

“They must also be able to identify the skills they require, and not just look to replace the person that has left.”

The shortage of skills is also causing employers to place less emphasis on experience. Previously, employers were specifying an average minimum of two years’ experience, but the research suggests that 18 months is now usual.

By Matthew Adey

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