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Battle for skills

Tom Hadley

The CBI released its Education and Skills survey which found that three quarters (75 percent) of businesses expect to increase the number of high-skilled roles over the coming years, but 61 percent fear that there will be a lack of sufficiently skilled people to fill them. Contribution from Tom Hadley, REC Director of Policy.

The statistics released by the CBI reiterate the resounding and continued importance of STEM skills for the future of UK business. As the UK starts to negotiate on the way forward with Brexit, we must pay closer attention to the UK’s investment in these areas or risk falling behind on the global stage. “To remain globally competitive and thrive in a modern and tech-centric economy, it’s important to make the next generation aware of the real-world opportunities available to them and how critical these skills are to businesses nationwide. Our research shows that big data and the internet of things (IoT) could add £322 billion to the UK economy over 2015-2020 and there is high demand for those with the skills to work in these fields.

“The emergence of artificial intelligence, robotics and smart technologies means more data is being created and analysed than ever before. Yet there remains a dearth of talent to extract relevant insights from all this information, leading to better, evidence-based business decisions. Even where algorithms can ‘learn’ by themselves, there still needs to be human involvement in understanding how the technology works and how it can be best applied in different situations. Committing to closing the skills gap creates an opportunity to propel the economy forward using all the technology now available, in what has been called the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’. The next generation requires a solid foundation in STEM skills that are crucial for developing a pool of analytically-minded talent. While we are moving in the right direction, we still need to do a better job of encouraging students to take up – and then develop – these skills as they will remain vital to business success moving forward.”

Availability of candidates continues to decline sharply. Permanent placements and temp billings continue to rise markedly. Availability of candidates continues to decline sharply

Starting salaries increase at quickest pace for just over a year-and-a-half. The Markit/REC Report on Jobs – published today – provides the most comprehensive guide to the UK labour market, drawing on original survey data provided by recruitment consultancies. Permanent placements continued to rise sharply in June, despite the rate of expansion easing slightly since May’s 25-month peak. Growth in temp billings also softened in June, but remained steep overall.

Demand for staff holds close to May’s 21-month peak
Demand for staff continued to rise in June, with the rate of growth staying close to May’s recent peak. This was despite both permanent and temporary vacancies rising at slightly weaker rates than in the previous month.

Salary growth fastest for over a year-and-a-half. Permanent starting salaries rose at a sharp and accelerated rate that was the fastest in 19 months in June. Growth in hourly pay rates also quickened since May, and reached a six-month record. As candidate availability continues to decline, The pool of available candidates for both permanent and temporary roles continued to shrink markedly in June. While the number of permanent candidates fell at a slightly softer pace than in May, the supply of temporary labour deteriorated at the quickest rate in 18 months.

Regional variation
On a regional basis, Scotland noted the sharpest growth in permanent placements, followed by the Midlands. The weakest rate of expansion was recorded in London.

Scotland saw the strongest upturn in temp billings of all monitored UK regions in June. Nonetheless, all of the remaining regions also noted marked rates of expansion.

Sector variation
Private sector staff demand continued to rise sharply at the end of the second quarter. This was despite a slight moderation in demand growth for permanent staff across the private sector. Meanwhile, the number of temporary vacancies in the private sector increased at a slightly faster pace. Demand for staff also increased in the public sector in June. Data indicated that demand growth was similarly strong for permanent and temporary roles, with the rate of increase picking up in the former, but slowing for the latter.

Recruitment agencies registered a broad-based upturn in demand for permanent staff during June. Engineering placed first in the rankings, followed by Accounting/Financial. Nonetheless, demand rose sharply in all of the other monitored job sectors. Hotel & Catering pipped Nursing/Medical/Care to place in the top spot for demand for temporary staff in June, with demand growth sharp for both job categories. The weakest increase in demand was seen for Executive/Professional roles.

Tom Hadley, REC Director of Policy says: “With fewer people currently looking for jobs, employers are having to increase starting salaries to secure the talent they need. This is creating great opportunities for people with in-demand skills who are prepared to change jobs, but it’s also putting unsustainable pressure on many businesses. “Existing skills shortages are being exacerbated by Brexit. For example, demand for accountants and other financial roles has increased recently as organisations try to protect themselves against economic uncertainty. London alone employs almost 200,000 EU nationals* in these roles. Policies which make it more difficult to recruit and retain these people will put business growth at risk.

“Investment in training the domestic workforce is vital to the long-term health of the jobs market, but it won’t allay employers’ fears about losing access to workers from the EU. The government needs to outline a five-year roadmap for post-Brexit immigration policy to enable businesses to plan effectively, and so the UK economy can flourish. *London has 191,400 EU nationals working in the financial and businesses services sector – Building the post-Brexit immigration system.

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