New research shows that the modest economic growth of the past four years has been met by an unprecedented shortage of skills, leaving thousands of vacancies unfilled.
Despite a surge in job openings, the number of positions left vacant because employers cannot find people with the skills or knowledge to fill them has risen by 130% since 2011.
The latest figures show so-called ‘skills shortage vacancies’ now make up nearly a quarter of all job openings, leaping from 91,000 in 2011 to 209,000 in 2015.
Although most sectors are suffering from skills shortages, the situation is particularly acute for some. Over a third of vacancies in electricity, gas and water and construction are now due to skills shortages, with transport and manufacturing not far behind. Only in public administration are skills shortages below 10%.
Researchers interviewed over 90,000 establishments across the UK to produce the Employer Skills Survey from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills. As one of the largest and most comprehensive surveys of its kind in the world, the survey gathers data from employers on a wide range of issues – from skills gaps and shortages to investment in training and under-employment.
The report finds that
- the financial services sector has seen the sharpest rise in skills shortages, rising from 10% in 2013 to 21% in 2015
- time management is a significant issue, with nearly 60% of establishments who reported a skills gap saying that their staff lacked the ability to manage their own time and prioritise tasks
- across the UK, two million workers are under-utilised – that is, they have skills and experience which are not being used in their current job
Lara Murray, an employment law specialist with Palmers said: “The UK has witnessed exceptionally strong job creation in the past few years, creating jobs at a faster rate than any other EU country. However, the struggle to find suitably qualified, skilled individuals to fill these jobs creates problems of its own for employers.
“There may be a temptation to take a gamble on a candidate, in a bid to fill the vacancy, only to find that their skills do not measure up to the requirements of the job. Equally, existing employees may be promoted or asked to take on additional, new roles within an organisation, when they are perhaps not comfortable or ready to do so.
“In such circumstances, employers need to be aware that this has the potential to spark an employment dispute. A properly worded contract with probationary period and variation clauses is essential.”
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