By Wendy Butterworth - Careers & Welfare Manager

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Skills Shortages: A labour market concern both pre and post COVID-19

In 2019 there were two underlying trends of concern within the labour market - skills shortages and the impact of AI and new technologies.

We looked at Automation in our February blog, which you can read here. In this blog we are going to look at some the skills shortages that were identified.

What are skills?

You may hear people talk about hard skills and soft skills, but what’s the difference between the two? Hard skills tend to be measurable, such as reading, writing, maths and technical skills relating to a specific job type e.g. engineering. Soft skills are less easy to measure as they tend to be traits that a person has and develops, such as communication, work ethic, adaptability. You often hear of transferable skills, and these tend to be made up of soft skills. You can develop them in any environment – work, education, hobbies – and they are transferable to other environments.

So, what are skills shortages?

Skills shortages relate to both the vacancies that employers are struggling to fill and the transferable skills that employers value the most. The term ‘skills shortage vacancy’ (SSV) relates to the occupations that employers find the hardest to fill. The most common reasons why a vacancy is considered hard to fill is because applicants lack the necessary skills, qualifications and experience required.

Prospects produced a report Skills Shortages in the UK in December 2019, which looked at the occupational shortages in the UK labour market, breaking them down by occupation group and region. They found that in the North West some of the occupations that were suffering shortages included nurses, recruitment professionals, housing professionals, youth workers and accountants. The rapid expansion of professional businesses, coupled with the region having some of the UK’s most deprived areas in terms of housing and welfare, are possible causes for the increase in demand for these roles and why the region is suffering a shortage of skilled workers. You can read the report for the full list and to find out about skills shortages in other parts of the UK. 

The Open University produced its Business Barometer 2019 report in July 2019, which found that 68% of employers found it difficult to find applicants with the right skillset. The report also found that employers were struggling to find applicants with the managerial and leadership skills they required, as well as digital literacy and ICT skills. Look at the past 5 months and how the working environment has changed for many workers. They have had to transition into working from home, developing their own digital literacy skills as they find new ways of communicating with others.

Soft skills are increasingly important as employers value applicants who can demonstrate creativity, flexibility, team working, and collaboration skills. With the advancement of automation and artificial intelligence in the workplace, those softer skills are going to become more valuable to employers. Those looking at a career in computer programming may find that programming languages come and go as employers change, favouring one over the other, but creativity and the ability to be flexible and adaptable to change is valuable and here to stay.

What is The Manchester College doing to help students develop the right skills for the workplace?

Everything we do at the Manchester College – from the courses we offer, the advice and support we provide and the work placements we help you secure, is about preparing you for industry and helping you take the steps you need to secure your first job in your dream career. Our new Centres of Excellence complement a range of qualifications with dedicated employability sessions to help equip you with all the skills you need to become ‘work-ready’. In our Industry Excellence Academies, you will benefit from a programme of study that has been co-developed with our industry partners. This input from our employer partners helps ensure that our courses are aligned with current industry skills demands. 

A career path is rarely ever linear. You’ll find that it is often a winding path, made up by taking opportunities as they present themselves and trying new things. Continuing to invest in your own personal development by updating skills and knowledge is essential. You can get impartial help from qualified Careers Professionals. They will help you to assess your skills and interests to match these against the labour market to help you identify what the right path is for you to take.

The labour market is constantly changing, and as we start to realise the impact of COVID-19, it may feel your future has never been more uncertain. However, with change comes opportunities, and seeking help from a qualified Careers Professional, you’ll get the personal guidance you need to navigate those changes. Whether you're starting on your journey, at a roadblock, stuck at a crossroad or looking for a change, a Careers Professional will help you to take the next steps.