It has always been the case that identifying a problem is far easier than coming up with ways to resolve it. Business leaders from across the UK have over the last couple of years asserted an enduring skills shortage that is consequently hindering workforce productivity and therefore the economy and its recovery.
The Graduate Labour Market Statistics, a quarterly publication on labour market conditions for graduates, postgraduates and non-graduates compiled its latest report covering April-June 2015, using data from The Labour Force Survey. However, when broken down, employment rate among graduates in a working age population has decreased since last quarter to 87%, compared to 69.1% for non-graduates. There remains a relatively high gap in graduates who enter high-skilled employment. Kevin Green, chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) asserts: ‘Last year we had nine areas of skill shortages, now we have 43 areas…In IT, coders, programmers, developers are all in short supply; there’s a shortage of doctors and nurses in the National Health Service; and we need about 20,000 more teachers in the UK.’ With so many graduates whose highest qualification is an undergraduate degree at Bachelor’s levels, there seems to be a mismatch of skills against qualifications. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) reported in a recent survey that skills shortages are becoming more acute and those graduating with degrees are not moving into a skill-led profession; risking a break on our economic recovery. Industries that seem to be suffering the most are engineering, technology, digital, construction and manufacturing. CBI found that nearly 40% of firms recruiting for staff with a proficient knowledge in stem subjects such as math, science, technology and engineering have found it increasingly difficult.
Accountants KPMG and The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), launched a report which analysed the skills gap in accordance to the construction industry 2014-2017. Entitled Skills to Build, makes recommendations for employers and training bodies to help drive a significant change to the industry. They claim that around 20% of trades including electricians, surveyors and construction managers are needed to meet demands in the next four years. The construction industry seems to have suffered the most, employing foreign trade workers who are earning more than the average brick layer in the UK just to fill vacancies for work. Around 400,000 workers have left the industry since 2008; a claim made by Richard Steer; chairman of Gleeds a leading construction management company.
In an article the Skills Shortage: Mind the Gap by the Economist, the Dyson empire in Malmesbury was used as an example of how serious the skills shortage is to the UK economy. Over a decade ago, Sir James Dyson, the founder of the famous vacuum cleaners and hand driers moved much of his production to Singapore and Malaysia, yet the design and testing of his products remain in Malmesbury, employing around 1000 engineers. Only recently, it was announced that a new site was to be built with the potential to employ thousands more workers to complement his demand for new products. What is striking is that despite it being a great story of entrepreneurial success; made in the UK, Sir James will need at least 3,000 more workers on site, yet there seems to be only 25,000 engineering graduates fresh out of university a year. The skills shortage is expanding, creating a large shortfall in recruitment; and the Dyson Empire is to name but a few. This particular deficiency has been reported by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), with more than half of British firms unable to find employees that match the criteria to work; equating a shortfall of 55,000 every year with engineering skills.
However with every job advertised, it comes down to a question of experience, skills and qualifications. Despite an overall shortage, more and more graduates are beginning to take additional courses to improve their curriculum vitae. There are a number of industries that are attracting young graduates with healthy starting salaries and beginning to see an improvement.
IT: graduates with a strong Java knowledge or a developer with one to two years’ experience can now demand an annual salary of £35,000, an increase from last year’s £28,000.
NHS: staff nurses can earn around £22,000 a year but this rises with experience and at a senior level this can reach almost £100,000.
Engineering: Sir James Dyson; one of the UK’s leading entrepreneurs recognises a shortage in engineering and donated £12million to set up The Dyson School of Design Engineering to tackle the crisis
Finance and Accountancy: Recruitment firm Hays has said there is an overall shortage in candidates
Construction: since the recession, housebuilding quantity surveyors and estimators have received the highest increase. It accounts for 6pc of the UK economy and graduate opportunities are on the rise.