The Recruitment & Employment Confederation is the largest trade body for the recruitment industry, representing 3,349 corporate members and a further 5,759 individual members through the Institute of Recruitment Professionals. The REC’s recent JobsOutlook survey highlighted that 39% of employers have ‘no capacity’ to take on more work without more staff, and a further 56% have only ‘a little’ capacity. Director of Policy at the REC, Tom Hadley, provides some expert insight into the survey’s findings.
The latest JobsOutlook undertaken by the REC uncovered a series of findings indicating the need for many businesses to take on additional staff to match growing demand. Which of the statistics or findings from the study struck you as being a particularly salient indicator of this growing need for more staff?
“We survey employers on a monthly basis to find out about their hiring intentions over the next quarter and the next year. What we’re seeing is that workforce capacity has been steadily falling, so in our latest report 45 per cent of employers reported having no spare capacity, and a further 51 per cent said they have only a little capacity, so these employers would need to take on more staff to meet growing demand.
“We know that businesses are keen to take advantage of the good economic conditions, and the same report shows that three quarters of employers want to hire more staff in the next three months, with eight in ten saying that they would take on more people in the next year. So it’s clear that a lot of UK businesses are planning to expand.”
Has this trend emerged predominantly in cities such as London or are we seeing more of a trend across UK as a whole?
“As well as talking to employers we survey recruiters on a monthly basis – our Report on Jobs. We ask them about the volume of people they are getting into permanent and temp work, and what we’re seeing is that there’s growth in all sectors and in all regions of the UK, with the North and the Midlands both reporting robust growth. So the jobs boom isn’t isolated just to the South East.”
Do you think this trend will continue to develop as the economy continues to recover following the recession? If so, do you think business’s need for more staff will accelerate at a greater speed?
“Confidence is high and businesses are keen to expand right now. According to our Report on Jobs, the number of people placed in permanent jobs by recruiters has gone up each month for the last two and a half years, and there’s no sign of that slowing down.
“The question is how sustainable this is in the long term. Our research is showing that there are now skill shortages across the economy, and recruiters are reporting worsening candidate availability in all regions month on month. The latest data
highlighted IT, Engineering, Blue Collar, Medical and Teaching as areas where permanent staff are in short supply, so these shortages are being felt in both the private and the public sector.”
“A big part of our work at the moment is about making politicians aware of this problem, because a lack of workers to meet demand threatens the sustainability of our economic growth.”
Another of the study’s findings was that many employers are reporting talent shortages in industries such as engineering, IT and construction. What steps do you think could be taken to tackle this issue?
“With so many employers reporting that they wouldn’t be able to take on more work without more staff, the question now is about where that talent comes from. There’s a few things that need to happen.
“Firstly, we need improvement to training and education in the UK so that the skills that jobseekers have better match the needs of employers. That means major improvements to careers advice in schools, better vocational education, and reskilling programmes for older jobseekers.
“As well as up skilling UK workers, the government needs to take a sensible approach to immigration. Despite the political sensitivities the reality is that we need to bring in more skilled workers not fewer, in order to meet the rocketing number of vacancies. A priority is addressing the restrictions on visas for highly skilled workers, which would allow businesses to access the people they need to grow and create jobs for more British workers.”
“Employers have a big part to play too, because they need to get better at attracting and retaining talented people. One of our core projects is the Good Recruitment Campaign, which helps businesses operate best practice – including accessing talent pools that might otherwise go overlooked.”
You also mentioned that recruiters have a major part to play in connecting employers to untapped talent pools including the 1 million older workers not currently employed. Aside from recruiters, do you think there could be any other barriers preventing these older workers from finding employment, and how do you think these barriers could be tackled?
“That’s right – we have 1 million 50-64 year olds who have been made redundant in the UK, and that’s a huge amount of skill and experience that businesses could benefit from to help meet demand.
“The challenge is that older workers can face negative stereotypes, so employers have to take responsibility for considering applications fairly. There’s also an issue around how jobs are advertised, because not all older people will look for jobs on social media or the internet, and the language that employers use in adverts is important. Words like “energetic” or “vibrant” can imply the need for someone young, and in fact this can amount to indirect discrimination.
“In June the REC will be launching a joint initiative with Age UK to help raise awareness of the specific challenges that older workers face and the measures that recruiters and employers can take to help overcome barriers. It’s important that businesses can benefit from the skills and experience that older workers bring.”
The issue of zero hour contracts was a key debate issue during the recent election. How do you think the increasing need for employment, as shown in your study, will effect the prevalence of zero hour contracts within the UK?
“The difficulty is that when we read about Zero Hours contracts in the media it’s often used as a term to describe all types of flexible labour. The reality is that no one has accurate data on how prevalent Zero Hours contracts are now, so it’s difficult to predict a trend for the future.
“It’s also interesting to note that Zero Hours contracts have often been attributed to the lower-skilled end of the labour market, but this is not always the case. For instance, musicians, guest lecturers and journalists are also in roles where Zero hours contracts are used, to allow them to work around other commitments. When used appropriately, Zero Hours contracts offer people flexibility and increased choice. That said, we support the government’s new controls on ‘exclusivity’ clauses, and it’s important to clamp down on abuse.”
For more information on the Recruitment & Employment Confederation visit www.rec.uk.com