Tag: skills

Government has received only 27 applications for temporary work visas

In response to the Government’s announcement regarding the granting of temporary visas to workers in the transport industry, Marian Khaliq, Partner and Head of Immigration at law firm Bishop and Sewel, said that the Government’s hostile post-Brexit immigration policies are responsible for prolonging the shortage of HGV drivers.

Khaliq said: “The Government was forced to act quickly after the shortage of HGV drivers recently resulted in fuel shortages, panic buying and the closure of some petrol stations.

“Other sectors, such as the food industry, have also been affected by labour issues, resulting in shortages of food supplies to supermarkets and restaurants, leading to fears of some foods being unavailable at Christmas.

“To deal with this, the Government will be issuing 4,700 ‘Seasonal Worker’ visas for drivers in the food haulage sector (expiring on 28 February 2022) and 5,500 ‘Seasonal Worker’ visas for poultry workers (which will expire on 31 December 2021). In both instances, the period of visa free access offered appears far too short to incentivise workers to come to the UK.”

Boris Johnson confirmed earlier this week that the Government had only received 27 applications. Other visas in the temporary seasonal worker category are usally granted for six months. Currently it’s estimated there is a labour shortfall of around 100,000 lorry drivers – triggered by an exodus of foreign nationals during the pandemic, coupled with post-Brexit immigration rules, and self-isolation requirements. The huge number of driver vacancies has been compounded by more general labour shortages affecting meat packing and fruit picking jobs – jobs previously done by EU nationals ­– which have impacted stock levels in supermarkets and fast-food chains.

Mariam continued: “The retail industry warned the government that, unless it took immediate measures to alleviate an acute shortage of haulage drivers, significant disruption was inevitable in the run-up to the Christmas season. In our new post-Brexit world, it is likely we will see the same labour shortage issues occur in other industries, unless the UK Government ceases with its inherently hostile attitude towards immigration.”

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The gap between supply and demand in the labour market is widening and the situation is unlikely to improve without government intervention, recruiters have warned.

Alongside publication of its latest monthly Labour Market Update, produced with the CBI, recruitment specialist Pertemps said that skills shortages were spreading across more and more sectors and now threatened to derail the UK’s economy recovery.

As well as the much-reported shortage of drivers, hospitality and IT staff, Pertemps said there was now a “drastic shortfall” in candidates for roles such as butchers, bricklayers and welders.

“While the job market is improving, we are experiencing shortages in sectors, such as hospitality, driving, IT and administration, which requires us and recruitment companies like us, to be creative and innovative to attract and secure candidates from wider talent pools to avoid slowing our economic recovery,” said Pertemps chair Carmen Watson.

“To ease acute shortfalls in certain trades, the government should also immediately update its shortage occupation lists to include jobs ranging from butchers and bricklayers to welders. In the longer term, firms must continue to strengthen inclusion while investing in skills and automation. The government can help by ensuring that the qualifications it funds include those in short supply.

‘Holistic’ approach needed

“What we need is a holistic approach to these challenges with recruiters working closer than ever with clients and talent pools, with government liaising with us and taking advice on where they can help. This is about keeping our economy moving forward and not about business versus business or the pursuit of profit at all costs.”

Pertemps’ view was backed up by data from job board network Broadbean Technology, which revealed that the number of people applying for jobs had fallen for three consecutive months.

According to Broadbean’s data, the number of applicants per vacancy in the UK was down 24% between May and June, following a 9% decline between April and May and a 15% drop from March to April.

The issue was most pronounced in hospitality and catering – the industry suffered the biggest fall in application numbers, with a 78% decline in the number of applications per vacancy in the first six months of this year.

Logistics and supply chain and retail also fared badly, with the number of applicants down 77% and 75%, respectively, during the same period.

Applications at odds with vacancies

The fall in applications was in stark contrast to vacancy numbers, which have continued to move in the opposite direction. Broadbean data reported that jobs were up 10% between May and June, while the most recent Office for National Statistics figures showed that job listings had risen above pre-pandemic levels.

Alex Fourlis, Managing Director at Broadbean Technology, said: “The UK job market is becoming increasingly competitive as a shortage of talent continues to be exacerbated by the spikes in hiring that most businesses are reporting. We’re currently witnessing multiple clients experiencing record low levels of job applications, leaving frustrated recruiters unable to fill critical positions.

“In fact, the applications per job that we recorded in May and June hit record lows, unseen in the last five years. It’s unlikely that we’ll see any improvement on this situation as we enter the mid-summer months, with many jobseekers now postponing their job search until September.”

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There are encouraging signs that the recent rebound in hiring extends beyond crisis-hit sectors such as hospitality and retail, with skilled vacancies also on the rise.

According to the Recruitment & Employment Confederation’s latest Jobs Recovery Tracker, postings for jobs in hospitality and leisure have started to level off, but adverts for professional and skilled occupations rose at the end of June.

In particular, demand was high for education staff, likely due to seasonal fluctuations within the sector. In the week of 21-27, there was a 13.6% rise in adverts for teaching and other education professionals and a 6.3% rise in demand for school secretaries.

The occupation that saw the highest weekly increase in job postings was market research interviewers, with demand up 15.7%.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the REC, welcomed the positive data, but warned there was a need for a plan that “reforms the skills system”.

“Sustained momentum in our jobs market is great news, but vacancies and unemployment don’t just resolve themselves – it takes support to help people find their new role. Rising job adverts for roles that require key skills to get hired – from IT to haulage – highlight the ongoing need to put the skills and job search support people need in place.

“Tackling this mismatch, in the context of a tightening labour market, should be a priority for government and businesses, working together. We need to act now to make sure we do the right thing for jobseekers and our economy.”

Critical roles unfilled

His view was echoed by a report published last week by the Professional & Business Services Council and the Financial Services Skills Commission.

Research for its report, entitled Skills for future success, found that almost one-third of employers in the sector reported skills shortages that resulted in vacancies, with thousands of critical roles in areas such as data and technology going unfilled.

This was leading to increased workloads for staff, higher operating costs and firms struggling to innovate or meet quality standards.

The report said the pandemic had exacerbated trends already in play, with factors such as automation, digitisation, globalisation and changing workforce demographics meaning the skills gap was widening.

Another key finding was that regional employers often struggled to find the talent they needed and the report’s action plan made several recommendations aimed at improving skills across all of the regions.

It suggested that addressing the skills gap within the sector could boost its yearly output by 12%, equivalent to an annual rise of £38bn by 2038.

Mark Hoban, Chair of the Financial Services Skills Commission, said: “Urgent action is needed to build an enduring skills culture across the UK and build a sustainable pipeline of high-level skills. Not only is this vital to delivering on the government’s aims on levelling-up, doing so is essential to developing the digital expertise we need to drive forward industry’s priorities such as improved customer outcomes, realising the full benefits of investment in digitisation and fostering far greater diversity and inclusion in our industry.”

Diversity play

While not in the same industry, a unique virtual work experience programme launched last week by National Grid and HR tech firm MyKindaFuture aims to do just that.

The week-long initiative, available to Year 12 and 13 students in South London, has been designed to give students insight into the energy sector, which needs to fill 400,000 roles by 2050 if the UK is to reach its net zero target.

One of the key goals is to encourage students from diverse backgrounds to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Will Akerman, Founder and Managing Director at MyKindaFuture, said: “Covid-19 has caused uncertainty for everyone, but those from disadvantaged backgrounds have been the hardest hit, and it is time to give back to them. Gaps in social mobility have grown and school closures have led to far greater inequalities in accessing education resources than we have ever seen. By being virtual we are able to get to these underserved communities and help those that need it the most.”

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City & Guilds warns that 22 million people don’t have the skills they need for future roles

The new Skills Index report from City & Guilds Group and Emsi is calling on education organisations, businesses and Government to focus on future jobs and skills as demand continues to outstrip supply.

Analysing data collected by the British Chambers of Commerce, the research found that only 54% of businesses said they can recruit the skilled individuals it needs and 28% cite the mismatch between skills they need and those gained through education.

The research also found that 61% of working age adults (equivalent to more than 22 million people) don’t feel they are equipped with all the skills they will need to unlock new opportunities over the next five years or even remain employable. In addition, 30% have not received formal workplace training in the last five years and 64% have not received any training in the past year – despite 41% of employers saying changing customer behaviours or expectations are most likely to change the skills they need in the future.

“Covid-19 has radically disrupted the labour market displacing almost a million people from their jobs, yet paradoxically employers are telling us that skills gaps remain a chronic issue for them,” said Kirstie Donnelly MBE, CEO of City & Guilds Group. “Solving this skills mismatch requires a shift in mindset from the individuals themselves as well as employers and the UK Government. It is no longer possible to leave full time education at 18 or 21 and never reskill again, we will require people and businesses to upskill and reskill throughout their working lives.”

Fifth of workers ‘hiding in their job’

A survey of 500 recruiters conducted by LinkedIn in May found that 46% have seen a rise in the number of people “sheltering” in their current job. A separate LinkedIn study of 2,025 job seekers found that 21% of UK workers been too worried about pandemic uncertainty to concentrate on career progression.

“It’s understandable that people are feeling anxious about the prospect of moving jobs during a pandemic, particularly if they have good job security, a steady income, and their employer has treated them well over the past year,” said Adam Hawkins, head of search and staffing at LinkedIn.

However, as talent shortages create a candidate’s market, Hawkins expects career progression to become more of a priority with employers expected to offer training as well as flexible working.

Rise in job ads for skilled occupations

REC’s latest Jobs Recovery Tracker reported a total of 1.63 million active job adverts in the UK in the first week of June, up 300,000 on the previous quarter and a similar level to early March 2020, pre-lockdown.

Teaching and other educational professionals (+17.8%) was the occupation with the highest weekly increase in active job postings in the first week of June. This is likely to reflect seasonal demand, as teachers moving schools in September have to resign by 31 May. There was also growth in adverts for other skilled roles such as welders (+6.6%), metal working machine operatives (+3.7%) and other skilled trades (+3.5%). Demand for bar staff continued to rise (+4.0%) as more people returned to pubs and restaurants.

“By far their biggest worry right now is the shortage of candidates for jobs,” said REC Chief Executive Neil Carberry. “The pandemic has made existing skill and labour shortages in the UK worse. Governments and business need to work together to ensure access to training opportunities and unemployment support so that there are pathways for everyone into growing sectors.”

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