Majority of businesses struggling to recruit specialist skills

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Almost two thirds (63%) of business leaders have said they are struggling to recruit as candidates lack the specialist skills and relevant experience they need.

A further quarter (24%) said finding staff with the right skillset will be single biggest challenge for businesses over the next five years, and a third (33%) are opting to leave positions vacant instead.

As a result, over half (56%) said persistent vacancies are overextending their workforce, impacting employee wellbeing and company growth.


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Paul Moir, global resourcing manager at Insights, is hopeful that the challenge will encourage companies to look beyond traditionally sought after skills and experience in favour of more diverse talent.

"As the availability of candidates tightens, businesses are becoming more open to different levels of experience from different industries to support their requirements. This has created opportunity for diversity within roles and for specialisms to be created, as the candidate wants to work on what interests them," Moir told HR magazine. 

To mitigate the risks of talent shortages Moir said businesses will have to continue to invest in the development of their people to retain talent and experience.

Similarly Viren Patel, director of the business development unit at The Open University (OU), which conducted the survey, advised HR to sharpen its hiring and staff training strategies.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “Training existing staff up on the required skills from within the organisation and taking on apprentices will help organisations to overcome this impact.

“It’s no surprise this year more than half (56%) of employers believe apprenticeships and work-based learning will be critical to their long-term success, an increase from the previous year.”

Almost half (45%) of employers responding to the OU said skills shortage is affecting them when recruiting entry-level jobs.

The majority of organisations already working with apprentices also said they are planning to maintain or increase apprenticeship intake in the survey.

This follows news earlier this week that the UK government would be extending the Kickstart scheme into 2022, providing subsidised jobs for those aged 16-24 on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment.

As an example of ways employers are investing more in employees skills online training provider Avado has said it is looking to apply it’s Apprenticeship Levy funding to help redeploy existing employees throughout 2022.

Dean Corbett, the company’s chief people officer, told HR magazine they would be using data technician and business analyst apprenticeships to meet known and planned future capability needs.

“We strongly believe this will help us not only reduce reliance on temporary workers, but also reskill, engage, and retain talent in our business. To a certain extent, we also believe this will reduce our recruitment from the external market,” he said.

"Building in reskilling, upskilling and refocusing of people in a business plan is critical. Too often it’s a reactive endeavour, that never really makes the agenda, despite the concern leaders have about it."

Kitty Ussher, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, added: “We’re asking the UK government to put lifelong learning, retraining and upskilling at the heart of their forthcoming Budget so that firms and individuals alike can fully take advantage of the massive opportunities that are available as our economy recovers and restructures.”  

OU’s Business Barometer 2021 report is based on a survey of 1,500 senior leaders at organisations in the UK.