UK faces perfect talent storm

The UK’s talent mismatch level – the gap between which skills people can offer and what employers are looking for – increased again this year and is among the most severe worldwide behind only Ireland, Spain and Portugal in Europe.

These are the findings of the Hays Global Skills Index 2014, a report published today by Hays plc, the leading global professional recruiting group, produced in collaboration with Oxford Economics. The report, titled ‘The Perfect Talent Storm’ is based on an analysis of professional employment markets across 31 major global economies, highlighting the dynamics of the global skilled labour market.

The combination of chronic skills gaps in high-skill industries such as engineering and IT, and the demands of a recovering economy have created a perfect storm in the UK labour market. This ultimately limits the prospects of every business. Companies are likely to face an even fiercer war for talent in the future, as the continuing economic recovery further stimulates confidence in hiring – highlighting, in turn, the lack of workers with relevant skills. Organisations will face ever-greater challenges in recruiting the talent they need to flourish.

This growing talent mismatch is starting to lead to further pressure on wages in highly skilled niche occupations. As a recruiter of qualified, professional and skilled candidates, Hays has started to see signs of this for its candidates in 2014. Broader job market measurements are likely to show evidence of this wage inflation in due course as the demand for scarce skills intensifies.

Importantly, Britain’s long-term economic future depends on a broad range of long-overdue infrastructure upgrades, including high-speed rail, toll motorways and better energy infrastructure. These projects, including Crossrail, HS2 and others, too could be jeopardised by skills shortages.

Commenting on the findings of the report, Hays’ Chief Executive Alistair Cox said: “The Hays Global Skills Index makes it very clear that organisations are increasingly facing major issues finding the talent they need – particularly in areas such as technology and engineering.

“The UK’s chronic skills shortage is one of the biggest threats to our nation’s future prospects. If this talent mismatch continues to rise at the current rate as the economy improves, we will reach crisis point in a matter of months.

“There is no miracle cure for the issue but in the lead-up to a General Election we have to start by acknowledging the problems. Despite some Government efforts to cut red tape and create a more business-friendly legislative environment, our research shows labour market flexibility has actually declined.

Equally, there is greater scope for Government to work with businesses and education providers to develop the workforce we will need in the medium term. Shorter term, the only viable route to find sufficient numbers of skilled workers to fill the jobs we are now creating is to look overseas. However, we need to revisit our skilled immigration policies to make this happen. The Government must take a long-term view and make sure immigration policy is sensitive to employer needs. In the meantime, businesses need to take responsibility for their future workforce and work hand-in-hand with education providers to develop tomorrow’s talent pool.”

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