The UK labour market is experiencing one of the most challenging talent shortages in its recent history. Our last blog post discussed the skills shortage which is taking place within the transport and logistic professions. However, this skills shortage is found to be taking place across a range of sectors within the UK. In August of this year, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) reported that the UK has 1.66 million vacancies, with this figure set to continue to rise throughout the rest of the year. Below, we provide a list of the job roles which they have found are facing the highest number of vacancies within the UK, as well as commentary on the causes of the shortages within these sectors.

HGV Drivers – 100,000

The shortage of HGV Drivers has been well reported for some time and has already taken its toll on the UK population, most notably through the recent shortages of fuel throughout the UK. Although this is a trend that is taking place across Europe, the UK is believed to be one of the worst-hit areas on the continent.

There is a range of reasons that the UK is experiencing such a shortage in these professionals, and against the conventional wisdom that the Covid-19 pandemic has been a main perpetrator of these shortages, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) survey identified several factors which are found to be more impactful in these shortages. While the pandemic has contributed to these challenges, it is in fact only the sixth key reason for driver shortages within the RHA.

Brexit is recognised to be the main cause of these shortages, as these rule changes have caused there to be a reduction in the number of available drivers. To add to these challenges, the UK-based talent pool of HGR Drivers is an aging one, as the average age for HGV drivers within the UK is 55; drivers reaching the age of retirement is also recognised to be a key contributor to these levels of shortages. This past year has overseen an amendment in the rules regarding off-payroll working, known as IR35. This reform means that people who are within the private sector are no longer in control of determining their IR35 eligibility, with this now falling to the private sector body. This is believed to have fuelled a shortage of HGV Drivers by 100,000. In a letter directly to the Prime Minister, the RHA has noted how the introduction of IR35 reform has caused agency labour to withdraw their services. This level of HGV driver shortage is found to affect many businesses within the UK, as according to the RHA, over 50% of employers had to wait at least 4 weeks to fill their last HGV driver vacancy.

With these shortages already causing disruption across the population, the government has recognised the necessity to support the industry, introducing temporary visas for 5,000 fuel tankers and food lorry drivers. The government have acknowledged that more needs to be done to encourage younger professionals to work in these positions, however, there is yet to be any information on what schemes or initiatives there will be to support the development of these professionals.

HGV Driver - Talent shortage

Nurses – 79,123

The nursing industry is something that has gained a lot of attention throughout the past year, with their pay and career opportunities often being a key point of discussion within the media.

While the UK appears to be going through a referendum on how professionals within nursing can are retributed, this appears to have come too late for many, as the industry experiences an accelerated rate of shortage in these professionals – this was at more than 50,000 prior to the pandemic but is believed to be considerably more since. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has said that the figures should “stun” ministers into taking urgent action, however, it remains unknown what strategies are being considered. Not only has there been a consistent increase in NHS vacancies, but there also remains a serious shortage of nurses and health professionals within the UK, this is believed to be due to increasing challenges in attracting qualified staff.

What makes the shortage of nursing professionals more concerning is the risk that this puts people who are truly dependent on their services, as well as the pressure on those who remain employed within nursing. 80 percent of surveyed nurses recognised that nurse shortages have compromised patient safety. Macmillan have said that more than half a million people with cancer were either unsupported or under-supported over the past 18 months.

Programmers and Software Development Professionals – 68,929

The first two job roles which are experiencing a steady decline in the number of people who are employed within these positions. Unlike the previous two industries discussed, the programming and software development industry is not reeling from mass unemployment. In fact, the sector happens to be experiencing a period of growth at this time, with ONS business population data indicating that computer programmers working for private companies have increased by more than 74,000 over the past years. 

While the technology market is thriving and growing at a dramatic pace, there continues to be a range of skills gaps. Many of these positions require candidates who have experience within a digital position, however, it is believed that 40% of the UK working population lack the digital skills necessary for these roles, making a mass skills shortage increasingly likely.

As the technology market continues to grow, hiring managers need to look into potentially reconsidering what skills are necessary for these professionals. Not only are the skills not aligned at this time, but 2/3 of tech hiring managers believe that the hiring process is too long. If the tech industry is to continue its growth, it is essential for them to manage their recruitment processes in a way which they can be confident that they are hiring the right amount of talent to support this growth.

Care workers and home carers – 49,751

Similar to the shortage of nurses within the UK, social care for the elderly and vulnerable is believed to be experiencing an unprecedented crisis throughout the UK. It is believed that care workers are leaving these positions to work as Amazon warehouse pickers and other better-paid jobs, as this is found to have the potential to offer staff an increased wage of up to 30%. The National Care Association has warned the care homes in the UK may face up to 170,0000 vacancies by the end of the year. To add further concern to the shortages of care workers and home carers within the UK, September’s NHS figures revealed that there is a slowing rate of care workers who have received a second vaccination – double vaccination is set to be a requirement for frontline care workers by the end at the November.

These shortages have already had an impact on the population, as managers have reported to The Institute of Health and Social Care Management (IHSCM) that they have had to turn down requests for care over August. It has also been found that care workers are returning existing care packages and some providers are not adding any more names until January 2022 at the earliest.

The extensive shortage of these professionals has resulted in calls for the UK to extend their Youth Mobility Scheme, which allows citizens between the ages 18 and 30 from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Japan to come to the UK for two years. This could have ramifications for the population also, as there is concern that this could result in more people ending up in residential care sooner than necessary due to home care worker shortages.

Primary and nursery education teaching professionals – 30,574

Primary and nursery has faced a struggle for teaching professionals for some time. It has been found that one of six primary school teachers in the UK quit after the first year, marking the highest rate in recorded history. This is not a new trend also, as statistics from the Department for Education (DFE) show that around 30% of new teachers have quit between 2012 and 2017.

This ignites an interesting conversation of why these professionals have an above-average propensity to leave their position. In 2018, the DFE identified employee workload, government policy, and lack of support from leadership as the three key reasons to why these professionals leave these positions. It’s clear that there has been concern in hiring these professionals prior to the pandemic, however, it is interesting to consider whether this has impacted teachers’ willingness to continue working within the industry.

The Covid-19 pandemic has offered teachers an unprecedented range of challenges, most notably in the movement to remote teaching. The Governments response in supporting the education sector was found to be a key factor, as 71% of surveyed teachers indicated that the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic has made them more likely to leave. This survey also recognised that factors such as the response of their respective school as well as each teachers’ personal circumstances also increased with regards to their likelihood of them leaving their role. A poll by the National Education Union also reported that teachers have faced an increased workload since the pandemic, with 95% noting that they are concerned about the impact on their wellbeing.

The future of teaching professionals remains an interesting question within the UK, as this poll also found that 35% of member teachers noted that they would ‘definitely’ not be working in education by 2026.

Chefs – 29,996

The hospitality industry’s struggles throughout the Covid-19 pandemic also attracted a lot of coverage throughout the media. Last month, online job adverts for Chef and other back of house positions increased by 118%, with there being no indication of this decreasing.

If you were to ask commentators of the reasons the hospitality sector has been decimated over the last year, many will reference the lockdown as it denied so many professionals the ability to work. While this is true, there is a growing belief that this was not helped at all by the low employee satisfaction that Chefs have reported prior to the pandemic. A large reason for this is the working circumstances that Chefs are put under, trade unions report how Chefs are often required to work several more hours than what they are contracted to do without an increased salary and in poor conditions.

Many therefore wonder whether people within the sector have been looking to leave the sector for some time, but without the time or motivation to do so, they have remained in the same position. However, the Covid-19 pandemic offered these professionals the opportunity to reassess their work/life balance and seek an opportunity that is aligned to that.

Chef Talent Shortage

Sales and retail assistants – 26,183

Retail was another industry that took a notable hit amid the Covid-19 pandemic, with non-essential stores being forced to close throughout the lockdown periods. Like those within the hospitality industry, a large proportion of these professionals were placed on the furlough scheme at the start of the pandemic.

Professionals within this sector often report excessive working hours and were also put on precarious contracts, meaning that the furlough scheme did not provide them with enough income throughout the lockdown. Many of these professionals have used the furlough opportunity to seek a new position.

While the retail industry looks to be on the road to recovery, there is still a large number of businesses that are looking for new staff. These businesses are also changing their proposition to ensure that they are more attractive to applicants. ‘Indeed’ believe that this has already started, as they say that there has been a 66% increase in retail jobs which are offering a bonus.

Cleaners and domestics – 24,148

Cleaning and domestic staff has been experiencing struggles within recruiting staff for some time, however, the past 18 months are said to have been one of the most challenging in recent history.

Brexit has made recruiting these professionals increasingly challenging, as international professionals (who made up a high percentage of this workforce) have a longer process if they are to work within the UK. This is particularly concerning for the future of the sector as The Labour Force Survey 2019 showed that 23% of the cleaning industry workforce was born overseas. The Covid-19 pandemic has proved to be a double hit for the industry also, as many of those from abroad have left the country at the start of the pandemic and are yet to return, either due to the challenges in returning to the UK or through people opting to reside outside of the UK. The shortage in domestic staff is also found to have resulted in a bidding between the more wealthy households within the UK. The British Cleaning Council (BCC) have long been campaigning for the government to revisit their immigration rules. More recently they have appealed for their cleaning operatives to receive ‘essential worker’ status.

Hiring managers within the cleaning industry are reported to make an increased effort to make their positions more attractive to potential applicants. Zero-hour contracts, a staple feature of cleaning and domestic positions, are believed to be diminishing, however not completely. Cleaning roles have also recently experienced a 20p per hour increase.

Metalworking production and maintenance fitters – 19,748

According to PWC’s Annual Manufacturing Report 2020, British manufacturing is facing its largest skills shortage since 1989. Difficulties in hiring these professionals started late 2018, as the prospect of the UK leaving the European Union became increasingly closer to a reality for professionals.

The challenges within the sector came to a head during the pandemic, as this resulted in businesses facing a shortage of materials, greatly limiting the number of employees who they could have. Interestingly, over half of manufacturing professionals stated that their attitude towards growth has been unaffected amid the political and economic uncertainty from the pandemic.

As a shortage in metalworking production and maintenance fitters has been an issue for this sector prior to the lockdown. This means that the UK’s recovery is not likely to be an indication for the same for this sector anytime soon, as these positions require very specific qualifications from their applicants, which greatly reduces the number of potential candidates.

Carpenters and Joiners – 6,364

The Construction industry has faced a range of challenges within hiring the right kind of talent. According to FMB’s most recent State of the Trade Survey, this past decade has seen recruiting for Carpenters and Joiners become an increasingly challenging process.

Brexit has been found to be a key aspect in this struggle, as the introduction of new immigration rules has made hiring non-UK professionals (which is typically a sizeable proportion of the Construction job market) a more challenging prospect.

It is found that not enough young people are working within the industry. Over a third of surveyed installers are at the stage of their career where they are looking forward to retirement. As it stands, simply not enough is being done to attract younger professionals to work as a Carpenter or Joiner. Consideration is being made in the adjustment of employee training away from traditional methods such as extensive classroom lessons and demonstrations, to a model which will involve shorter lessons supported with an online e-learning platform that could be accessed at any time.

If your business has struggled to fill these or any other vacancies, we can help. We specialise in alternate recruitment methods to help you find where the best talent is and how to effectively engage them. If you’d like to know more check out our services below!

Dwayne Jones

Reasearch and Insights Analyst, People Insights

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