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Skills shortages, politics and economic uncertainty still giving recruiters the jitters

Recruitment agencies are being hit by a triple whammy of skills shortages, politics and economic uncertainty in the wake of Brexit

In the wake of the referendum result in 2016, the combination of economic confidence, uncertainty over the way Britain’s exit from the European Union will be handled by politicians and the exodus of EU nationals mean that recruiters and employers are having to adjust their plans.

Surveys of business confidence indicate that employers are pessimistic about growth, resulting in a decline in investment and a fall in hiring. Add to this the view that suitable candidates are hard to find and there is little wonder that recruiters are facing increasing challenges in satisfying employers’ needs.

Over recent years a lack of candidates offering science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills has caused a problem; now, an increased demand from the public sector – especially the agricultural and health and care sectors – has piled pressure on recruiters and means that a range of industries and services are struggling to fill vacancies.

Developing technologies in IT are difficult to recruit for and are an example of skill shortages and mismatching. This represents a huge part of the UK economy and continues to grow. The UK graduate output is failing to grow to match anticipated demand over the next few years; worryingly, computer science graduates have a high level of unemployment, suggesting a skill deficit for technology jobs.

Construction and engineering is suffering from the recession hangover. In the wake of the economic crisis, the number of apprentices and graduates employed in the industry fell; now, there are not enough skilled workers to keep pace with the recovery within the industry.

Healthcare is another area that has a worryingly number of vacancies, with this number growing since the Brexit vote. One issue here is that the average age of care workers creates an increasing demand to replace retiring workers.

Within the NHS, a nursing crisis is being exacerbated by EU nationals leaving the NHS and potentially by the government’s decision to remove nursing bursaries for UK university-trained nursing students.

At first glance it may seem apparent that education and training are the key to the solution; however, this is another sector that is problematic, with the education sector itself an area in which recruiters face problems seeking out the best candidates for a position.

The teaching profession is also finding it hard to attract new entrants. As pupil numbers rise, the worry is that the shortage of qualified teachers is also increasing. An analysis of the subjects causing problems for schools and colleges reveals that these are precisely the ones the economy and recruiters need to fill.

The importance of the non-financial services sector to the British economy also means that this is a growth area for staff recruitment; again, suitable candidates are hard to come by. The food and drink industry is expected to provide over 100,000 staff opportunities over the next decade to meet targets, but the greatest shortage is in senior roles. The industry has a shortage of candidates for science and development.

Although employment figures look good in the UK, the productivity paradox remains. Skills shortages are the most likely cause.

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