Skills shortages blight one in five vacancies, finds survey

Young businessman juggling icons

Employers struggle to fill around one in five jobs because of skills shortages – and these vacancies are growing twice as fast as others, according to research published by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).

In its survey of more than 90,000 employers, UKCES found that while the number of job vacancies in England has returned to pre-recession levels, so-called “skills-shortage vacancies”, where employers cannot find people with the right skills and qualifications to do the job, have doubled since 2009.

Fifteen per cent of employers now have a vacancy, according to UKCES, equivalent to 2.4% of the total employment market. The number of available vacancies, at 655,000, is up by 12% compared with 2011.

Douglas McCormick, a commissioner at UKCES and managing director of the UK rail business at Atkins, said there was “a real possibility that businesses might not be able to make the most of the upturn because they don’t have the right people”, and that companies need to put effort into planning their talent pipeline now.

UKCES found that despite the need to upgrade employees’ skills or train up those that are coming into the workforce, the proportion of staff being trained has not changed significantly for a decade. Furthermore, total spend on training in 2013 was slightly lower than in 2011, at £42.9 billion compared with £45.3 billion – equivalent to a reduction of £1,680 per employee. Worryingly, almost half (48%) of organisations attempted to solve their skills problems by recruiting highly skilled and qualified staff to do basic jobs.

McCormick said: “Under-using people’s skills like this risks a bored and demotivated workforce. By providing high-quality and job-specific training, businesses can make sure they have the skilled workforce they need, as well as inspiring loyalty and keeping their staff motivated.”

Skills shortages were worse in some industry sectors and geographical regions than in others. Skilled trades such as plumbing suffered a skills shortage density of more than 40% in some areas, while health and social care also suffered. Regionally, Scotland had the highest density of skills-shortage roles, at 25%.

Commenting on the findings, Matthew Hancock, minister for skills and enterprise, said: “With a record number of people in jobs, as our economy continues to grow we must have a skilled workforce equipped to work in a modern economy and compete effectively in the global race.”

2 Responses to Skills shortages blight one in five vacancies, finds survey

  1. CommonSense 6 Feb 2014 at 2:06 pm #

    We need to change how we treat training and upskilling staff
    NOW! This really needs to be a significant change as employers cannot rely
    solely on fishing from the same pond.

    More companies should be looking internally and offering the
    chance to their employees to do something different. A lot of people would jump
    at the chance to do something different. Just because someone is an
    Administrator for example doesn’t mean it is their passion or dream job! Unfortunately
    many people don’t leave school and know what they want to do, they end up in
    jobs that maybe aren’t best suited for their skills or are doing something that
    they don’t enjoy. Unfortunately through other life pressures and finances,
    mortgage etc it becomes extremely difficult for people to change direction in
    their careers and do something they would be better at as qualifications cost
    money and job changes normally mean a significant drop in salary and starting
    again from the bottom which many simply cannot afford to do. This is a shame
    and a waste of talent as many people have fantastic transferable skills, life
    experience and enthusiasm that they can bring to the table.

    We are increasingly likely to be working into our 70’s so
    there needs to be a complete culture change and the ability for people to
    change careers more easily. Employers can help do this and need to be playing a
    much higher part in this. It will help to cut skills shortages by using
    existing staff to train further or looking at new staff to train. On the plus side existing
    staff are already known to you, you should know their strengths and weakness etc
    and there is the opportunity for them to do the different job as trial period
    so both parties can see how it will work. It will also open up other vacancies
    for other staff to come on board or for new staff to join.

    Employers should not just rely on people that have spent
    their own time and money to get qualifications or on paid for government funded
    initiatives. They need to start putting something back in to their workforce too. Ok
    this may be difficult for much smaller businesses but I am sure that there are
    answers and solutions to these problems to make it work, it has to if we are to
    move forward!

    I know for much higher skilled jobs this may not be possible
    but I am sure there is a way and if there are not people with the skills you
    are looking for then you will need to train them! You cannot just sit around
    waiting for the perfect candidate to come along that has been trained by
    another company. Be proactive, your workforce will thank you for it.

  2. Nick Miller 26 Sep 2014 at 1:49 pm #

    The companies with the biggest problems are the ones with the most rigid internal recruitment facilities. These departments are failing to find the skills their companies and instead of reaching for new skills markets instead lead their senior executives into believing that the reason for failure is skills shortage.
    Internal recruitment departments say that they cannot operate unless they have control of all recruitment activities so woe betide any line manager who tries to hire from outside this internal monopoly.
    The flow of information about recruitment (are they finding the candidates they need) has been cut off to potential outside suppliers as recruiters hide themselves behind voicemail systems. This enables them to control the flow of information to their internal hiring managers and directors who are led to believe that the word of their hiring team is sacrosanct. If they cannot find the people they need then no one can.
    The self imposed restrictions that these companies have in terms of access to skills markets is the reason why they think there is a skills shortage.