Do you want the good news first? As you probably know, and the current government can’t wait to repeat, unemployment across the UK is down significantly. While there were over 2.4 million people unemployed just about a year ago, the number has dropped precipitously, and now unemployment stands at just a nudge over 7%. Yes, that is good news indeed, especially for all those people that have been able to find a job after the pain and frustration of the last recession. Now comes the hard part. Are we really ready to meet the challenges of the future? That is to say, is our workforce prepared for what is definitely going to be increased global competition? Are we getting trained sufficiently, are we skilled enough, to meet the challenge? By many accounts, the answer is no.
What Is Missing?
The basic problem is that employers in the UK are looking for skill sets that not enough people possess. Research that was done by Oxford Economics reveals that the mismatch between the demand for specific skills and the available supply is currently at a historical low. When comparing the UK to countries in Europe, only Ireland, Spain and Portugal seem to be in worse shape. Obviously, this presents two distinct challenges. On the one hand, if more people want to get employed, they will have to make sure that they are getting the education they need to acquire the skills necessary to land the kind of jobs that employers are offering. Secondly, taking a long-term view of the problem, the UK economy as a whole cannot grow to its full potential unless there are workers available that can provide the skills necessary for our economy to compete on a global basis. Already, countries such as India and China are investing heavily in technology education and other highly desirable fields that will undoubtedly provide many of the future opportunities.
Some Potential Solutions
Naturally, the ideal situation would be for our current UK residents to be able to develop the skills necessary to land many jobs that are currently unfilled, due to unqualified candidates. By some accounts, there are over 500,000 jobs available with no qualified candidates to fill them. That is truly tragic. The Royal Academy of Engineering has made some estimates on how many graduates are required to fill the current needs in the area of technology, medicine and other specialized fields. The minimum number of STEM graduates (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) that they estimate that are needed right now to keep UK businesses viable is around 100,000 graduates per year. Unfortunately only about 90,000 of them actually graduate in these areas and many don’t actually go into fields that they studied, which creates an even greater imbalance.
Is Skilled Immigration an Answer?
Yes, this is a very volatile subject, with many people vehemently opposed to having skilled workers from other countries take jobs that they feel would rightfully belong to current UK residents. But if we don’t prepare our workforce better, it may be a viable option, at least in the short term. Anyone who runs a recruitment agency knows how frustrating it can be to have open positions that they cannot seem to find viable candidates for. Often, they need recruitment factoring so that they can keep their enterprise viable. The best resource for this is http://www.cashsimply.co.uk, a company that can help any recruitment agency make it through the difficult times until our workforce is better aligned with the expectations of employers.