Critical sectors including healthcare, construction and retail could soon face a catastrophic shortage of workers, as job candidates shun key worker jobs because of perceptions about pay and working hours.
Only 25% of the UK’s talent pool are interested in key worker jobs in any one of the 10 “essential” industries identified by skills development organisation City & Guilds, despite these roles accounting for around half of UK employment opportunities.
The 10 essential sectors are education; construction; energy and utilities; government and public services; IT, communications and finance; transport and logistics; healthcare; social care; food production, agriculture and animal care; and retail.
Its Great Jobs report suggests that low salaries and perceptions of poor working conditions are affecting the attractiveness of certain industries, with jobs in the construction sector seen to be the least appealing.
Less than a fifth (17%) of the 1,000 people surveyed by Opinium said they would consider working in construction; only 22% would consider food production; 25% would consider social care; and 26% would consider healthcare.
Retail was the most appealing essential sector, with 39% of people not already in the sector suggesting they would consider a retail job.
“While the pandemic may have shone a light on the many jobs that are critical to the running of our country, our research demonstrates the undeniable fact that low salaries, unattractive or inflexible working conditions and a general lack of respect for these critical jobs is having a catastrophic impact on the ability of employers to fill these roles,” said Kirstie Donnelly, CEO at City & Guilds.
“In the face of a growing labour crisis that is impacting these vital industries and wider society, we need to collectively take a long, hard look at how we can make these jobs more attractive.
“In the future, we need to do more than simply clap for carers, we desperately need to re-evaluate the way we recognise these roles as a nation. To do this, we must improve careers advice to make people aware of the range of roles available within their own skillsets, and the training available, as well as the opportunities to progress in these sectors.”
Donnelly said essential roles, many of which are in the public sector, could be losing candidates to the private sector which often offered much larger starting salaries.
“To fight back in the war on talent, government and employers need to work together to consider other ways to make essential jobs more attractive, including offering opportunities for skills development and more flexible working patterns.”
The Great Jobs report, which is based on Opinium survey data and analysis by labour market economists Emsi Burning Glass UK, also finds that:
- Very few women want to work in energy and utilities (14%); transport and logistics (14%) and construction (9%), and few men want to work in education (23%), healthcare (20%) and social care (20%).
- Some of the least attractive jobs are expected to see significant numbers of vacancies in the next five years. For example, 61,166 medical practitioner job openings are expected in the next five years, yet only 3% of people would consider working in these roles.
- Low pay is a major detractor – 31% say this is the reason they would not consider working in retail and 23% cited pay as an issue in social care.
- Unsociable hours are deterring people from considering roles in healthcare (17%) and social care (18%), where overnight and weekend shifts are the norm.
- Of those currently in a key worker role, 53% say that better pay would improve their sector’s reputation, rising to 74% who work in social care.
The report recommends that employers:
- Look at benefits beyond salary and shape benefits programmes around staff, including flexible working opportunities, home working, and part-time and job-share roles.
- Consider ways to make the workwplace more accessible for people who face barriers to employment, including parents, people with physical and mental health conditions, and ex-offenders.