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.”