THE BLOG

Skills Shortages Hold Back the UK - So Why Can't the Unemployed Get Training?

02/12/2014 11:29 GMT | Updated 31/01/2015 10:59 GMT

The UK's job market appears to be doing pretty well, but scratch the surface and life looks a whole lot less rosy for unemployed people.

Last month the TUC revealed that only one-in-40 jobs created since the recession were for full time employees, with a huge rise in part time and self-employment driving the apparent successes.

Self-employment has become a route into poverty for many; with average earnings of only £10,700 per year, they receive around £3,000 less than a full time worker on the minimum wage.

We need employers to step up and offer more work with prospects, but new information shows why this is so unlikely.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) says that skills shortages are behind the problem, and that they are getting worse.

Kevin Green, REC chief executive, points out that:

"Last year we had nine areas of skills shortages, now we have 43 areas. Every single type of engineering is in short supply, from mechanical to software, civil to electrical.

"In IT, coders, programmers, developers are all in short supply; there's a shortage of doctors and nurses in the National Health Service; and we need about 20,000 more teachers in the UK.

"And the situation's been getting worse month-on-month over the last 18 months."

Over the last few years immigration has made up some of the shortfall, but this is slowing as the government tries to crack down and eastern EU economies start to grow and their workers take advantage of opportunities at home.

When I worked in a jobcentre 20 years ago, the most common question unemployed people asked me was why they couldn't get training paid for even when there was a guaranteed job at the end of it.

Nothing much has changed. Jobcentres prioritise quick turn around, pushing people into those occupations that need no qualifications and have high turnovers, and don't contribute to the country's need for skilled employees.

It is still far too hard for unemployed people to get good quality vocational training even in areas of skills shortage despite the obvious need for it.

If all parts of the system joined up, we could improve the economy much more rapidly.

Unemployed people would get the skills and advice they need through the jobcentre and work programme - which become true employment support providers, not sanction machines - and employers would get the trained people they need to fill skills gaps and truly prosper.

Average wages and productivity would improve and the amount of money in the economy would increase, giving whichever political party proposing it something to boast about.

Instead we have a coalition government which prefers to demonise the unemployed, and its best attempt at improving services - the work programme - has not been a success, particularly for those with jobs barriers.

The political dividend of identifying a vulnerable group and blaming them for many of society's problems has been clear for the Tories, with polls showing general support for claimant-bashing policies.

But the economic result has been higher borrowing as the tax take is lower than George Osborne expected due to the low quality of employment created.

A responsible party would put the country first, and provide services which truly helped the workless and the country, but we are stuck with a ruling party that is all politics and no government.