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Categories: Opinion

Employer talent woes intensify: hiring across highly skilled professions tumbles


White collar jobs fell in February as the economic climate continued to put pressure on the highly skilled labour market, with placements also dropping as employers continue to struggle to recruit. That’s according to the latest statistics from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) – the trade body for the professional recruitment sector.

The data – provided by the global leader in software for the staffing industry, Bullhorn – revealed that permanent vacancies fell 19% between January and February while contract roles also dropped 14% during the same time frame. Perhaps more pertinent, though, was the fall in the number of permanent placements, which dropped 3% month-on-month and 30% year-on-year in February. This decline is indicative of the ongoing recruitment struggles facing UK employers as skills shortages continue to grow.

Contract vacancies and placements also fell between January and February 2023, both dropping 14%. This suggests that the impact of the current climate is more widespread, with the contractor market usually absorbing the recruitment demand when permanent vacancies slow.

More immediate actions needed to solve skills shortages

According to APSCo, these latest figures are indicative of difficulties across the highly skilled labour market, with employers struggling to fill open vacancies and reigning in new hiring as a result. While the Chancellor’s Budget announcement last week demonstrated a clear focus on boosting the country’s access to skills to address this, significant elements were missing from the announcement. In particular, more immediate solutions to fill pressing staffing gaps, as Ann Swain, Global CEO of APSCo explains:

“While we are seeing job numbers falling, businesses are still struggling to recruit as was made abundantly clear in the Chancellor’s Budget announcement. APSCo has warned of the pressures on the highly skilled labour market for some time and given that these skills take time to develop, we have called for more immediate solutions to support the long-term national strategy.

“Plans for reforms within childcare support, changes to pensions caps, better support to help those with a disability into employment, ‘returnships’ and skills boot camps will all deliver longer-term solutions. But the immediate challenges are the more pressing concern. The UK needs to hold its own as a globally attractive destination for international contractors and the self-employed – a standing that hasn’t yet been achieved and won’t without immigration reform and a review of Off Payroll.

“We need an attractive route of employment for global talent if economic growth is to be achieved. The current Tier 5 and fast track visa schemes are too narrow in focus and funding should be increased for the Home Office to both support existing systems and drive new visa routes which are more viable for highly skilled, self-employed project workers. Off Payroll is also continuing to impact the flexible labour market and needs to be amended to accommodate the different requirements of highly skilled contractors and the self-employed.

“With the OBR predicting that the UK will avoid entering a technical recession this year, the demand on the labour market is only going to increase over the course of the next few months. While the Chancellor’s Budget had a promising focus on removing barriers to encourage people into employment and upskill the country, these solutions are focused on the long-term, not the immediate need.”

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