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The UK’s Skills and Labour Shortage: Why it’s happening, and what you can do.

  • August 20, 2021

The UK’s Skills and Labour Shortage: Why it’s happening, and what you can do.

The number of staff available to fill vacant positions in the UK is at the lowest since 2017. The candidate shortage is widespread, and affecting all sectors. There are not enough qualified candidates to fill all the jobs available in the UK, and this is having a huge impact on both jobseekers and companies looking for new staff. How did we get here? And what can we do about it? In this post, we'll explore what this means for both candidates and businesses, and we'll discuss some strategies that both sides can use to make the most of the situation.

So, how did this happen exactly? Well, there was already a skills and labour shortage prior to the pandemic, which has been greatly exacerbated. The pandemic has reduced jobseeking activity, with people much less likely to want to leave an existing role with so much uncertainty still in the air. At the same time, in a rush to reopen and return to 'business as usual', there has been a hiring rush amongst many sectors. Without the demand to meet the rush, this has led to the biggest candidate-to-job discrepancy in years.

A big reason things are quite so bad is due to the combined effect of Brexit and Covid-19. Both events led to a number of skilled migrant workers returning to their home countries, and restrictions on travel have meant there's nobody travelling inwards to balance the deficit.

In this blog, we want to talk about what this means for both our candidates and our clients. We'll talk about the obstacles that you may face, and how you can make the most of the situation - whether you're hiring, or trying to get hired.

So firstly, candidates may be wondering how the shortage affects them, and if this should change the way they apply for roles. One of the big positives for candidates is that this shortage effectively makes it a great time to be searching for a new job. Competition for roles is down, and starting salaries are up. With less competition, this could also mean more opportunity to move between sectors, if you were looking for a complete change in career.

The situation is definitely one that can be used to a candidate's advantage. Take the time to search for a position and industry that you're truly interested in. Many companies at the moment are willing to invest in more training to fill the skills gap - so if you've been putting off applying for your dream role due to a lack of experience or skill, now might be the best time to strike. Of course, there is no harm in doing some independent learning beforehand, and in a market with a skills shortage, knowing the basics or being able to demonstrate your willingness and ability to learn something new may give you a competitive edge.

So, on the other side of this coin, what does this mean for businesses with recruitment needs? Though it may seem as though the situation places you at a disadvantage, there are actually many aspects to the shortage that may bring positive outcomes.

Candidates having the freedom to be more selective means that you're likely to see candidates with a quality attitude - with a genuine interest in being at your company. In addition to this, candidates are more likely to apply outside of their previous sector, so you may gain access to a pool of candidates you otherwise wouldn't have seen.

Of course, there's no denying the negatives of this situation for businesses. Costs are likely to increase as average starting salaries rise. Plus - you may find it difficult to recruit someone with pre-existing skills, meaning your training costs could be higher too.

Look at schemes which offer funding that could help you to recruit the right people. Lottery funding is available for businesses in certain areas looking to expand. And the government's Kickstart scheme provides funding to employers to create jobs for 16-24 year olds on Universal Credit. You could also look at investing in your in-house training, or offering apprenticeships. If you're struggling to find candidates with existing transferrable skills, work with an experienced recruiter who knows your industry and can introduce you to potentially suitable candidates.

It's unclear how long the shortage is going to last. Most experts agree that a review of the current immigration rules is also needed to allow skilled workers to come back to the UK and fill roles in those industries most affected by the crisis. However, as recovery from the pandemic continues and people become more comfortable, more may begin to consider job hunting again in a more stable market. The increase in average starting salaries will also help to entice people in to new roles.

However the ongoing situation affects you as a business or as a jobseeker, you can work with a recruiter that cares about your needs. Get in touch with Kirkland Associates today to find out how we can help by calling 01332 638035.