Scotland the Blog: insight (can) lead to impact

This week in Glasgow I was a guest of UKCES the body responsible for driving skills and productivity in the UK. It's an organisation which more employers should be familiar with. They've released their Scottish data.  About 6000 employers responded to their telephone survey. Maybe you were one of them.

The survey looks at skills shortages, gaps and underutilisation. It focuses on Skill-shortage vacancies whereby employers fail to recruit due to a combination of skills and experience. I can see your eyes misting over.

Let's use a football team analogy since we are at  the tail end of the World Cup. It's difficult to recruit a player who puts the ball in the net consistently. The skills to do that are a complex mixture of fitness, physique, positioning and technique. Thomas Muller Of Germany is very good at it, as is Luis Suarez of Uruguay. They are very difficult to find and Suarez also does his Gnasher the dog impersonation. Still Barcelona or Billy Smarts Circus are in a bidding war to prise him from Liverpool.

What I have described is a skills shortage vacancy SSV, every club bids up their wages and they become too expensive. So what do you do? You could try's skilling someone up. You might have a big defender who is tall is no slouch and could with a bit of training become a striker. Unfortunately you gave him the chance and this striker isn't a Thomas Muller but more of a Fred. That's a skills gap.

In the same team you might have a midfield player who likes to play through the middle or a left back who prefers to attack. You want the midfielder to stay on the left because he is two footed. He hates it and moans a lot. If workers are not using their skills "optimally" we say that that they are under-utilised.

Generally as with all workers , when football players are poorly utilised they are disengaged and their performance deteriorates. They start to ask for transfers and some of them get elaborate tattoos as a primitive form of voice because they know a lot of managers hate them!  If the football analogy doesn't work for you think of The Tour De France and the need for speed merchants and hill stormers.

Back to the Survey. The survey is designed to help employers identify skills and understand the needs for workforce development.

In Scotland at the moment SSV's are reported by a fifth of employers.  It differs by sector and region. Over two fifths of skilled trades and transport and distribution roles  have SSV's. 39% of professional jobs and 35% in manufacturing.  Aberdeen is the most acute with 37% of employers reporting an SSV. By contrast only 12% of employers in the Forth Valley have SSV's.

When we look at skills gaps in terms of the workforce it's a big problem. About 135,000 workers are impacted. That's about one in sixteen employers. The survey also looks at training though as a former L&D specialist with labour market expertise I feel like Bill Murray with that gopher every time skills analysts say training rather than learning . There is less info on learning which doesn't require a course and the focus on training days as a measure of quality is so last industrial epoch. That said its a measure of intent if not impact. 70% of employers are offering training but that includes everything from how to lay a section of cable to helping surgeons collaborate in the NHS. About £4.2bn in total. Anyway you can read all about it here > www.gv.uk/government/publications/ukces-employer-skills-survey-2013-scotland

There is a lot more to the skills agenda and in August we will be releasing a report called Scotland's Skilled Future which seeks to join up skills, employability and workplace performance. watch  this space, or in football terminology keep an eye on the flanks. Mercifully it will soon be the Glasgow Commonwealth  games and I can use hockey or netball.

Thank you for your comments. There may be a short delay in this going live on the blog page as we moderate the comments added to our blogs.


  • Hi John,

    I enjoyed this blog simply because it describes me to a T.

    And apologies for putting my private life on your blog...but 'necessity is the mother of invention' isn't it?

    I qualified in HR (way back in 2003 now...such a long time ago) and have been denied access anywhere near an HR job simply because I do not 'fit the HR football league'...i.e I do not have2 years or more work experience in the field! Even in spite of me doing part time jobs as administrator and hr assistant updating database etc whilst at university!

    I tell you what, yes I do not have the specific qualifications every organisation is advertising to the dot...but I very well have life's experiences of management, financial budgeting, employee relations, learning and development, organisation change etc, etc. Of course none of the terminology from my experiences match what organisations are looking for but how am I supposed to get the necessary asked for skills if no one gives me the chance? I am at a catch 22 dilemma and as a result have been working in a job I hate...it just pays the bills.

    I completed high school got married raised a child and worked in factories, cleaning, administration, care...you name it! After doing all that for some 20years and after my child came home one day and said mum everybody's parent is either a doctor, lawyer or manager...but you are a cleaner! That broke my heart.

    I decided to get myself back to school and did a university degree in HR so that I can do better in life and not have my children ashamed of me when they do their family history sessions in school...

    John, my question to you and all HR experts out there...is anyone out there prepared to give someone like me a chance? I am hardworking and have proved that I have a 'can do' attitude to anything I put my head to. I joined university at the age of 30+ studying amongst youngsters and made it!

    Can you help!


  • Hi John,

    I enjoyed this blog simply because it describes me to a T.

    And apologies for putting my private life on your blog...but 'necessity is the mother of invention' isn't it?

    I qualified in HR (way back in 2003 now...such a long time ago) and have been denied access anywhere near an HR job simply because I do not 'fit the HR football league'...i.e I do not have2 years or more work experience in the field! Even in spite of me doing part time jobs as administrator and hr assistant updating database etc whilst at university!

    I tell you what, yes I do not have the specific qualifications every organisation is advertising to the dot...but I very well have life's experiences of management, financial budgeting, employee relations, learning and development, organisation change etc, etc. Of course none of the terminology from my experiences match what organisations are looking for but how am I supposed to get the necessary asked for skills if no one gives me the chance? I am at a catch 22 dilemma and as a result have been working in a job I hate...it just pays the bills.

    I completed high school got married raised a child and worked in factories, cleaning, administration, care...you name it! After doing all that for some 20years and after my child came home one day and said mum everybody's parent is either a doctor, lawyer or manager...but you are a cleaner! That broke my heart.

    I decided to get myself back to school and did a university degree in HR so that I can do better in life and not have my children ashamed of me when they do their family history sessions in school...

    John, my question to you and all HR experts out there...is anyone out there prepared to give someone like me a chance? I am hardworking and have proved that I have a 'can do' attitude to anything I put my head to. I joined university at the age of 30+ studying amongst youngsters and made it!

    Can you help!