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​What's behind the UK's Skill Shortage?

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​What's behind the UK's Skill Shortage?

In recent month’s we’ve seen a significant upturn in the jobs market. Businesses are doing their best to focus on the future and with restrictions starting to ease, the demand across most sectors is continuing to grow.

It was reported back in May that UK job vacancies had hit their highest level since the start of the pandemic[1] which on the surface feels like a fantastic step towards economic recovery however, businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to find the right staff to fill their vacancies and this isn’t limited to a single sector.

Hospitality, Construction, Tech, Haulage, and the Engineering sector are all reporting difficulties in finding workers.

The skills shortage impacts individuals as well as organisations. Young people are being disproportionately impacted by missing out on working in higher paid roles and businesses are having to pay inflated salaries to attract limited talent.

So, what are the causes behind these challenges and what can be done?

The Pandemic

There are many factors that have led to the current situation, but the issue has been exacerbated by pandemic.

The furlough scheme has been a lifeline for both businesses and their staff; however, it has also given people an opportunity to reassess their priorities, time to think about what they really want to do as a career and even more time retrain in different sectors.

This was seen recently when applications for nursing courses rose by almost a third (32%), which was dubbed as “The Nightingale” affect.

The furlough scheme allowed people to seek alternative work whilst still being paid a percentage of their current wage and this has acted as a taster for some people to explore new opportunities.

This has been particularly true of people working in the retail and hospitality sectors which already have a reputation for high turnover and often rely on seasonal staff. Both sectors have been significantly affected by the lockdowns and it could be that people are looking for more long-term security and are therefore seeking employment elsewhere.


The UK leaving the European Union has led to changes to employment and immigration laws. When coupled with the fact that many EU workers returned to their home countries during the lockdowns, it has been the perfect storm in amplifying the shortage in the candidate market.

The construction, logistics and hospitality sectors have all been impacted by the decline in EU workers here in the UK.

More than 30% of hospitality workers across the UK are thought to have come from Europe pre-Brexit, and roughly 26% of the UK’s construction sector.

It has certainly become a candidate market and with some businesses getting more and more desperate for staff, wages are rising in some sectors to entice more talent. It is still unclear what the longer-term impact of the restriction of free movement will be, particularly on the industries that relied most heavily on European migrants, but the affects are already starting to show.

What can be done?

It’s reported that many businesses have given up entirely on finding suitable talent to fill their roles and instead are investing in £1.45 billion on training, to upskill existing staff.[2] Alternatively they’re paying inflated salaries to attract people with the skills required.

With the furlough scheme distorting the real figures around the skills shortage, it is likely that these challenges will continue for a while. So, what steps can employers take to address them?

Working with a recruitment partner is a great way to overcome some of the challenges posed by the skills shortage.

As a well-established and well trusted recruiter, we have access to a pool of talent across various sectors including hospitality, healthcare, industrial and commercial. We also have the ability to tap into the passive candidate market meaning we can deliver quality, skilled candidates to our clients.

The apprentice levy is also a practical solution for upskilling and training staff who are enrolled on an industry approved apprenticeship programme. It can be a great way to attract talent, although it is usually used to kickstart someone’s career within a particular industry, it will be less helpful for businesses seeking to fill a senior or specialist role.

The employment market is always fluctuating, and although we’re currently experiencing extremes, things will eventually settle, and the pressure on businesses will be alleviated.

If you would like to discuss your recruitment requirements with our friendly and professional team then get in touch via email: or call us