Recruiting skills is biggest challenge, says BoE

The extent of the "skills crisis" confronting most sectors of the UK economy has been illustrated by a new survey showing the number of professionals applying for job vacancies dropped by 40% between January-February this year alone.

With vacancies across the country at an all-time high, publication of the survey by jobs board network Broadbean Technology coincided with a warning from a top Bank of England official that recruiting and retaining people in the financial sector represented the biggest management challenge amid a surge in vacancies.

Sam Woods, a deputy governor who heads the bank’s Prudential Regulation Authority, also told a House of Lords committee that the “jury is still out” on the number of City of London banking jobs that might ultimately be lost to Europe following Brexit.

Struggle to recruit as vacancies rise

According to the Broadbean survey, the number of professionals applying for new jobs fell by 37% in the year to February amid a 52% increase in vacancies.

The most significant decline in the number of people applying for roles were in engineering (down 41%) and IT (down 38%), along with the retail and healthcare sectors.

Alex Fourlis, managing director at Broadbean Technology said: “The UK’s skills crisis has been well documented over the last year, impacting almost every business, of every size, across every sector.”

“The uptick in recruitment activity at the beginning of 2021 was initially welcomed with open arms in a Covid-hit economy, but we all soon felt the squeeze on resources as we found ourselves in a unique scenario where everyone was recruiting at the same time."

Mr Fourlis added that, while Brexit might "feel like a lifetime ago", the impact it had had on the labour market was not immediately felt, mainly due to the pandemic.

"There is no quick solution to rebuilding dwindling talent pools and we fully expect this squeeze on resources to continue over the coming months," he said.

“We do, however, expect to see more employers and recruiters using innovative technology and maximising partnerships with external talent suppliers to tackle this skills crisis.”

Education institutions suffer as staffing becomes a major issue

Meanwhile, a report from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) found that education vacancies hit a two-year high at the end of last year, while application numbers fell.

The report, also based on Broadbean data, showed the number of education vacancies posted in the UK hit a two-year high in the final quarter of 2021, with the greatest demand being felt in Greater London, the West Midlands and Greater Manchester.
Ann Swain, APSCo chief executive, commented: “The challenges for education institutions and those staffing firms that support the sector are significant.

"The pandemic has hit teaching professionals hard and many have simply exited the profession through a combination of health concerns, stress and the initial impact of vaccine requirements in schools.

"Add to this the lack of financial incentives that can be used to attract professionals in the sector and it’s no wonder that schools, colleges and academies are all struggling to recruit.”

Ms Swain said that while the government had launched marketing campaigns to encourage people to take up a career in teaching, more immediate action was needed to address the current shortages.

"APSCo has highlighted a number of methods to help alleviate the skills shortages in the UK, which includes greater flexibility in Apprenticeship Levy usage to support the ‘Levelling Up’ agenda, as well as the introduction of a work visa for self-employed. highly skilled contractors,” she said.
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Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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