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Skills shortages the 'dark side' of buoyant labour market, says UKCES

There's a 'dark side' to the UK's current growth in recruitment, high levels of employment, and buoyant labour market, according to the 2015 Employer Skills Survey from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).

The number of job vacancies has gone up by 42 per cent since 2013 to 928,000, a rise of almost 300,000, but a growing number of them are being left unfilled because companies can't find the right people with the right skills, the report said.

Some 6 per cent of all employers had at least one skill-shortage vacancy at the time of the survey - what the report described as a 'significant increase' from the 4 per cent recorded in 2013.

Direct financial impact

In terms of volume, skill-shortage vacancies grew broadly in line with the increase in general vacancies, but certain occupations were hit worse than others.

Employers in the 'strategically important' construction sector struggled to fill one in three construction vacancies, up from one in four two years ago, while skills shortages in the financial services sector have jumped to 21 per cent from 10 per cent in 2013.

The impacts of skill-shortage vacancies continued to be significant for employers, the report said.

Over two-thirds of employers who had difficulty filling their vacancies solely as a result of skill shortages had experienced a direct financial impact through either loss of business to competitors, increased operating costs, or having to outsource work, or some combination of the three.

Shortage and underuse of skills

The Acas blogpost Katherine Chapman, UKCES: Productivity: let's realise the UK's potential linked the skills problem to the UK's flatlining productivity levels.

Katherine Chapman also highlighted the related problem of underuse of skills, with almost half of UK employers reporting that they had employees with skills not fully harnessed, equating to 4.3 million workers or 16 per cent of all employees.

The solution, she said, was recognition of the importance of how skills are developed and deployed in the workplace, through innovative thinking about job design, use of technology, work organisation and effective leadership and management.

Acas publications and services

Acas has in-depth information and advice on Building Productivity in the UK, including links to its report of the same name, comment from leading voices on the topic, and all the relevant case studies.

Acas has also developed a new productivity tool that can help organisations assess where they can do more to get the best from their staff. See the Acas Productivity Tool for more details.

Acas experts are on hand to come to your workplace and work with you on all aspects of employment relations to create a happier, more satisfied, more productive and more engaged workforce. See Workshops, projects and business solutions or call the customer services team on 0300 123 1150.

Practical training is also available in a range of crucial management skills to help you get the best out of your people, including Skills for supervisors, Staff retention, Recruitment and induction, People management, Absence management and Conflict management.

For free, impartial advice and guidance visit Acas Helpline Online.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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