HR & Management

In dire need of talent? Here's how to overcome the skills shortage

7 min read

02 February 2016

The UK is among the handful of shining lights in the global economy, with the International Monetary Fund predicting global growth of 3.6 per cent. However, the skills shortage across the world means many firms will struggle to capitalise on this growth.

Digital development, demographic and workplace culture shifts are redrawing the skills map for global businesses. The supply of talent is shifting at a time when demand is increasing, which creates profound challenges for the future of business and their workforces. Currently, around 40 per cent of companies across the EU struggle to find employees with the right skills, with 63 per cent of CEOs saying availability of skills is a serious concern. 

So what can businesses do to overcome the skills shortage?

(1) Make a more appealing place to work

This means possibly increasing salaries or developing a compelling benefits programme. You should also think of building and promoting a strong company culture.

(2) Look for talent in new places

Another question you should ask yourself is: Am I just looking in the wrong places? Recruitment methods can get stale, which is why it’s essential to dust yours off every now and then, and look for new avenues to explore for talent. This may mean switching recruitment agencies, attending job fairs, or using social media in ways you’ve not done before; candidates don’t always come directly to the vacancies page on your website, and they don’t all use the same recruitment agents, so there are plenty of skilled, talented workers out there who you’ve not come across yet. 

You may even discover perfect matches who are not actively looking for a new job, but if you can reach out to them with a fantastic job offer, they may be enticeable.

(3) Consider an apprenticeship programme

Trade industries, such as construction and plumbing, have felt the real brunt of the UK’s skills shortage, with a reported 35 per cent of trades companies struggling to find qualified workers. The UK is currently undergoing a major residential and commercial development drive as the population grows, but without suitably skilled engineers available, many firms have to turn down work.

To challenge the shortfall, trades companies have demonstrated resourcefulness by initiating a high percentage of apprenticeships: on-the-job training, backed up by nationally recognised qualifications, taught at a college.

Any industry can run apprenticeships, from events to business management. Whilst in training, businesses have additional hands-on-deck at a lower cost than the average employee, and once qualified, you’ve got a fully trained professional who is already completely accustomed to your company’s way of working. If your business is suffering a skills shortage, our consultants are here to help. We can assess the needs of your company and source reputable talent at all levels to help your business grow.

Read more about the state of apprenticeships:

(4) Invest in upskilling new and existing employees 

The case for MOOCs in education can also be made for the workplace too. MOOCs are revolutionising workplace training by upskilling employees, lowering the cost of corporate training and building a talent pool of potential hires with core competencies needed by employers, ensuring the workforce remains relevant and competitive. In fact, 70 per cent of corporate training and HR professionals see opportunities to integrate MOOCs into companies’ learning programmes and 44 per cent of organisations are interested in creating internal courses and curating external ones. 

Currently, around 40 per cent of companies across the EU struggle to find employees with the right skills and MOOCs could be one of the solutions to address the EU’s high level of unemployment and skills shortages. Several large companies like the Bank of America are teaming up with leading European universities to offer MOOCs that align with the core competencies needed for specific roles, turning MOOCs into an effective recruitment tool that enables companies to build a potential talent pool and identify job candidates with the right skills. 

In addition, MOOCs substantially reduce the cost of corporate training. For example, in the UK the annual employer expenditure on training was approximately £2,550 per person trained. When you consider that it costs approximately 100 euros to train an employee with MOOCs, the cost benefits are clear. 

MOOCs are not a fleeting trend. The demand for MOOCs is only expected to rise as Millennials – who will make up half of the global workforce by 2020 – place greater importance on learning and development opportunities that make the most of new collaborative technologies.

(5) Implement a grad scheme

Graduates are cheap to hire, quick to learn and well practiced in transferable skills, such as written and oral communication, organisation, and data analysis. However, graduate schemes are a really competitive field right now because huge numbers of businesses recognise that securing top-tier university graduates is one of the most logical recruitment methods during a skills shortage. 

Many businesses will start taking applications from graduates a year before they finish their degree or masters course in order to secure the highest level of talent before they’re off the job market. It’s a yearlong task for your HR team, but if you’ve got the resources to advertise and run a graduate scheme (or if you can enlist the assistance of a recruitment agency), doing so can really pay off.

Also in the best will of supporting businesses, two government departments have united to analyse the depth and breadth of the supply and demand issue surrounding digital skills in the UK – we dissected the extensive report to reveal what smashing the bottleneck can do for the country’s economic potential.

Rob Clark is MD of Epson UK and senior VP for Epson Europe.