In recent months, the UK has seen record levels of job vacancies across a variety of sectors, with employers experiencing difficulties finding the quantity and quality of labour needed, particularly in professional occupations. There are clear gaps in what employers are doing to address the problem, and a lack of awareness of the key skills initiatives available that could help.

Analysing the experiences and views of UK employers, this survey report provides recommendations for both organisations and public policy-makers on how to develop the workforce, by looking at six key areas:

  • labour and skills shortages 
  • employer approaches to training 
  • relationships with training providers 
  • young people and work 
  • apprenticeships 
  • technical education.

Key findings

  • Recruitment difficulties are highest in the public sector and more prevalent among professional occupations, where 43% of employers say that applicants do not have the required level of skills.

  • The skills that employers are having most difficulty in finding include technical skills, as well as softer skills such as problem solving, planning and organisational skills, and customer handling. In response, employers are focusing on improving pay and conditions, but also upskilling existing staff and offering apprenticeships. This provides an opportunity for policy-makers to engage employers in skills-based initiatives.

  • Employers who take a more strategic approach to skills – conducting a workforce planning exercise and putting a training plan in place – are more likely to address current and future skills needs, ensure that work is well designed and that managers are equipped with the skills they need to develop their people.

  • 36% of employers disagree that their people managers receive adequate training on how they develop their people. Line managers need to be supported to nurture the growth and development of all staff to ensure continuous development at work. 

  • Over half of employers who recruited directly from school felt that young people were poorly prepared for work. Bringing employers and the education system closer together can benefit young people as well as feed organisations’ talent pipelines.

  • Too few employers engage with the further education sector and their awareness of the Government’s technical education reforms remains low. Sharing examples of the positive impact that further education institutions can play in developing workforce skills will be crucial.

  • There is broad support to reform the Apprenticeship Levy into a more flexible training levy, to allow employers to invest in other forms of accredited training. 

Download the report for more information

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