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Skills Shortage Vacancies Rising But So Is Training - UKCES Report Brings 'Bittersweet' News to UK Employers

12/02/2014 12:23 GMT | Updated 13/04/2014 10:59 BST

News of an increase in British job vacancies this month came as somewhat bitter sweet to employers, training providers and government agencies, who remain united in tackling those challenges still faced by the UK economy.

More than 90,000 employers interviewed by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) between March and July 2013 reported a total of 559,600 job vacancies in England - a rise of 45% in the last five years.

But in the same period skills shortage vacancies, which occur when employers can't find people with the right skills or qualifications, have doubled from 63,100 to 124,800.

These findings, revealed in the UK Commission's Employer Skills Survey 2013 and published last week, are in part to be celebrated of course. Such a rise in vacancies is a sure sign that the economy is indeed recovering.

But, for those working to encourage greater investment in workplace skills and employee development, it is also proof that skill shortages already feared to be having a detrimental effect on our economy are very real indeed for some parts of the UK.

The report also reveals that it is likely employers are still trying to solve their own skills problems by hiring recruits with skills greater than that required for the job, risking a bored and demotivated workforce in the process.

On top of this, only a minority of businesses surveyed were prepared to give education leavers their first job even though the majority found that when they do so, their new recruits are generally well-prepared for work.

I have spoken before of wider efforts to highlight the need for greater investment incentives in training from the employer's perspective, and the need for a continual dialogue between industry leaders and Government on this clearly remains.

And yet I do believe the drive to meet these industry skills gaps is, in other ways, very much gathering pace and a more promising outlook for our young people is in part beginning to emerge.

Here in Wales, for example, we are fortunate that work to address these issues is already well underway following the launch of a new 10-year Skills Strategy for Wales in Llandudno, which took place on the same day the UKCES report was published.

Deputy Skills Minister for Wales Ken Skates highlighted the need to better align the offerings of training providers with industry skills requirements, and for a specific focus on employer engagement in order to foster greater levels of 'employability ' within the workforce.

Developed in consultation with FE College Principals, the National Training Federation for Wales, the CBI, the Wales Employment and Skills Board and other partners, the new Skills Strategy undoubtedly makes a good start.

Indeed, the overall collaborative nature of Wales' current training systems may be a possible explanation for the fact that, Wales experienced a slower rise in skills shortage vacancies than both England and Scotland.

In addition to this, although general spend was down, overall the percentage of the workforce trained across the UK was found to have risen in the same period.

This alone should bring encouragement to those already working collaboratively to improve on skills gaps across industry sectors countrywide - of which there are many - and reassurance to our young people that there will be a role waiting for them in the workplace of tomorrow.