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Skills gap widening as bounceback gathers pace

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There are encouraging signs that the recent rebound in hiring extends beyond crisis-hit sectors such as hospitality and retail, with skilled vacancies also on the rise.

According to the Recruitment & Employment Confederation’s latest Jobs Recovery Tracker, postings for jobs in hospitality and leisure have started to level off, but adverts for professional and skilled occupations rose at the end of June.

In particular, demand was high for education staff, likely due to seasonal fluctuations within the sector. In the week of 21-27, there was a 13.6% rise in adverts for teaching and other education professionals and a 6.3% rise in demand for school secretaries.

The occupation that saw the highest weekly increase in job postings was market research interviewers, with demand up 15.7%.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, welcomed the positive data, but warned there was a need for a plan that “reforms the skills system”.

“Sustained momentum in our jobs market is great news, but vacancies and unemployment don’t just resolve themselves – it takes support to help people find their new role. Rising job adverts for roles that require key skills to get hired – from IT to haulage – highlight the ongoing need to put the skills and job search support people need in place.

“Tackling this mismatch, in the context of a tightening labour market, should be a priority for government and businesses, working together. We need to act now to make sure we do the right thing for jobseekers and our economy.”

Critical roles unfilled

His view was echoed by a report published last week by the Professional & Business Services Council and the Financial Services Skills Commission.

Research for its report, entitled Skills for future success, found that almost one-third of employers in the sector reported skills shortages that resulted in vacancies, with thousands of critical roles in areas such as data and technology going unfilled.

This was leading to increased workloads for staff, higher operating costs and firms struggling to innovate or meet quality standards.

The report said the pandemic had exacerbated trends already in play, with factors such as automation, digitisation, globalisation and changing workforce demographics meaning the skills gap was widening.

Another key finding was that regional employers often struggled to find the talent they needed and the report’s action plan made several recommendations aimed at improving skills across all of the regions.

It suggested that addressing the skills gap within the sector could boost its yearly output by 12%, equivalent to an annual rise of £38bn by 2038.

Mark Hoban, Chair of the Financial Services Skills Commission, said: “Urgent action is needed to build an enduring skills culture across the UK and build a sustainable pipeline of high-level skills. Not only is this vital to delivering on the government’s aims on levelling-up, doing so is essential to developing the digital expertise we need to drive forward industry’s priorities such as improved customer outcomes, realising the full benefits of investment in digitisation and fostering far greater diversity and inclusion in our industry.”

Diversity play

While not in the same industry, a unique virtual work experience programme launched last week by National Grid and HR tech firm MyKindaFuture aims to do just that.

The week-long initiative, available to Year 12 and 13 students in South London, has been designed to give students insight into the energy sector, which needs to fill 400,000 roles by 2050 if the UK is to reach its net zero target.

One of the key goals is to encourage students from diverse backgrounds to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Will Akerman, Founder and Managing Director at MyKindaFuture, said: “Covid-19 has caused uncertainty for everyone, but those from disadvantaged backgrounds have been the hardest hit, and it is time to give back to them. Gaps in social mobility have grown and school closures have led to far greater inequalities in accessing education resources than we have ever seen. By being virtual we are able to get to these underserved communities and help those that need it the most.”

Photo courtesy of Canva.com

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