The number of job vacancies unfilled because employers cannot find candidates with the appropriate skills has risen by 130 per cent in four years, according to new research by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills.
The UKCES' employer skills survey, published today, reveals that out of a total of 928,000 job vacancies in 2015, 209,400 (22 per cent) were down to a skills shortage. In 2011, there were just 91,000 so-called skills shortage vacancies.
According to the report, more than a third of vacancies in electricity, gas, water and construction in 2015 were due to skills shortages. The sector which has seen the sharpest rise in the proportion of vacancies due to a lack of candidates with suitable skills is financial services, up from 10 per cent in 2013 to 21 per cent in 2015.
Business leaders have cautioned that the new apprenticeship levy could exacerbate the problem, by creating a disincentive for organisations to consider training and developing their staff. Neil Carberry, the CBI's director for employment and skills policy, said: “While the UK economy is holding steady against global uncertainty, the business need for people with the right talent and skills continues to grow.
“Businesses are committed to training and developing their staff with a rise in time and money invested, but the apprenticeship levy may act as a disincentive by increasing the cost of taking on apprentices. With the demand for skills on the rise, if the levy is going to work it must have the flexibility for firms to continue to train according to business and industry need.”
However, Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said that the apprenticeship reforms could "make a real difference" in addressing skills shortages in entry-level jobs and sectors such as health and teaching. "We also agree strongly with the commission’s comments on the need to address the skills of the existing workforce and not just new recruits. Apprenticeships at all levels can make a major impact in tackling this challenge," he added.
UKCES deputy director Lesley Giles said it was essential for the UK to boost its productivity. “To do that, we need people with the right skills," she added. "But that’s only half the story. Creating good jobs that produce high-quality, bespoke goods and services is just as important.”