Skills shortage behind almost a quarter of unfilled vacancies, says UKCES survey

Nearly a quarter of vacancies in the UK have gone unfilled because of a shortage of much-needed skills, the chief executive of UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) has revealed.

Michael Davis (pictured) gave the Skills Summit in Central London a preview of the Employer Skills Survey 2013 findings in which 22 per cent of the 655,000 vacancies in the UK remained untaken because employers could not find workers with the right skills.

And skills shortage vacancies nearly doubled from 2009, from 63,100 to 124,800.Michael-Davis-E82

He told delegates that the survey, officially published today, presented “a mixed picture [with] positive trends, but also significant challenges”.

“On the one hand, the number of job vacancies are up and in England have returned to pre-recession levels,” he said.

“On the other, skills-shortage vacancies are growing faster than vacancies.”

Jobs in skilled trades, management, professional roles, caring, leisure and machine operating were most affected.

The report said: “There appears to have been an increased difficulty finding appropriate oral and written communication, literacy and numeracy skills [compared to the findings of the last survey, in 2011].”

The UKCES Employer Skills Survey interviewed over 90,000 employers between March and July 2013. They reported a total of 559,600 job vacancies in England — up 45 per cent per cent from 2009.

Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said: “Employers in some sectors report persistent skills shortages which is why I have been working hard to design a skills system that is rigorous in the training it provides and responsive to the needs of employers.

“With a record number of people in jobs as our economy continues to grow we must have a skilled workforce equipped to work in a modern economy and compete effectively in the global race.”

The survey found that the number of job vacancies in England had returned to pre-recession levels. However, so-called “skills shortage vacancies” — where businesses cannot find recruits with the skills required — were growing twice as fast.

The survey interviewed more 90,000 employers between March and July last year. They reported a total of 559,600 job vacancies in England – up 45 per cent per cent from 2009. However, skills shortage vacancies nearly doubled over the same period, increasing from 63,100 to 124,800.

Overall, skills shortage vacancies now account for more than one in five of all vacancies (22 per cent) up from one in six (16 per cent) in 2009.

A further finding of the survey was that the number of establishments providing training for staff was back to pre-recession levels, although the amount spent on training had decreased from £1,680 per employee in 2011 to £1,590 in 2013.

Douglas McCormick, a UKCES Commissioner and managing director of the UK rail business at Atkins, a design, engineering and project management consultancy, said: “While the rise in the number of vacancies is a good sign that the economy is recovering, there’s a real possibility that businesses might not be able to make the most of the upturn because they don’t have the right people.

“This shows that businesses need to start thinking about planning their talent pipeline now – not waiting until they are unable to fulfil contracts because of a lack of skilled staff.

“Worryingly, these figures show that the percentage of staff in the UK receiving training from their employer hasn’t changed significantly for a decade.

“There are also signs that some employers might be trying to solve their skills problems by choosing to recruit highly-skilled and qualified staff to do very basic jobs.

“Under-using people’s skills like this risks a bored and demotivated workforce. By providing high-quality and job-specific training, businesses can make sure they have the skilled workforce they need, as well as inspiring loyalty and keeping their staff motivated.”

Read edition 91 of FE Week for more of Mr Davis’s comments from the Skills Summit and his views on the results of the Employer Skills Survey.