Wales and north west now rivalling London as hot spots for skills shortages

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Concerns over talent availability ‘should be a wake-up call’ for employers ahead of Brexit

Wales and the north west of England are emerging as the areas facing the greatest skills shortages in the UK, alongside London, according to a new analysis that highlights the talent issues employers may face as the UK’s exit from the EU nears.

skills shortage analysis drawn from the UK Visa Bureau’s ‘UK Shortage Occupations List’ by Small Business Prices finds that some areas far exceed the national average in the number of vacancies per head of population.

In London, demand for finance professionals, director-level employees, chief executives and secondary school teachers far outstrips supply, making the capital a hotspot for talent shortages.

In Wales, there is a shortage of skilled industrial workers, nurses and design and development engineers, while social workers and chemical and electrical engineers are in high demand in the north west.

Analysis of a breakdown of the healthcare industry reflected the broader findings, with the greatest average demand for healthcare workers also occurring in London.

Dividing job vacancies by regional population, the capital and the north west of England were revealed to have an average regional demand index score of 9.68 per healthcare vacancy, followed by Wales and the West Midlands.

Lizzie Crowley, skills adviser at the CIPD, told People Management that although the study  represented only a partial analysis of the recruitment landscape – as there was no indication of how hard it was to fill available vacancies – the new data should serve as a warning to employers.

“Businesses should treat this as a wake-up call in that they already face challenges now, but these will only get worse in the future as the post-Brexit slowdown potentially bites,” she said.

“It’s more important than ever before to think about how you upskill your staff to meet medium and long-term skills needs, but also create pathways into your company by developing new routes into employment, ensuring you have the skills needed to realise growth ambitions.”

Ongoing uncertainty over the status of EU workers continues to impact on the healthcare sector. Figures published last week from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) revealed that only 805 EU nurses and midwives joined its register between April 2017 and March 2018, compared with 6,382 the year before – a fall of 87 per cent.

The NMC also reported a significant rise in the number of EU staff leaving the register, with 3,962 EU nurses and midwives leaving during the same period – an increase of 29 per cent on the previous year.

Crowley said the sector faced unique recruitment challenges as it remained reliant on a supply of employees coming from universities.

Kate Palmer, head of advisory at Peninsula, equally warned organisations struggling to attract talent not to be “blind” to what potential employees rated as important factors in recruitment.

“Rather than simply turning up to work to be paid, many employees now wish to work for a business with the right culture, opportunities and values that fit for them,” she said.

“The hiring process can present the perfect opportunity to inform applicants about the organisation’s stance on these issues, such as development opportunities, the provision of flexible working and the equality ambitions of the business.”

According to LinkedIn’s quarterly Recruiter Sentiment survey, with one year until Brexit, 96 per cent of HR and recruitment professionals say leaving the EU is negatively affecting their hiring strategies

Almost half (44 per cent) of respondents said they felt the UK was now less attractive to EU27 candidates. Jon Addison, head of talent solutions at LinkedIn, warned that the war for talent would only intensify as the UK moved closer to departing the EU.

“With just under a year to go until we officially leave the EU, it’s clear that this is one of the biggest factors impacting on hiring strategies,” he said.

“With less international talent looking to the UK for career opportunities, the war for talent is more competitive than ever as the UK labour market tightens.”

One in four respondents to the LinkedIn survey said the top factors affecting hiring strategies as a result of Brexit were the availability of talent, while more than a third cited business uncertainty and a reluctance of candidates to move to the UK.

While 71 per cent of respondents said they felt ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ confident about their ability to recruit the right talent, Addison urged HR professionals to tackle future recruitment issues by aligning their long-term hiring strategies and workforce planning.

“HR teams should be leveraging workforce insights and data to ensure that, in combination with their recruiters’ instincts, they make informed decisions and plan to hire talent not just for skills their business needs now, but will need in six to 12 months time,” he said, adding:

“Think about how you could upskill your existing team to ensure that your business is well equipped to navigate the more competitive external hiring landscape.”

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