Why long term recovery depends on reskilling in growth industries
The job market has been flipped on its head. No longer are we seeing the hiring freezes and wait and see attitudes of 2020.
WaveTrackR’s June report revealed that jobs had grown to a massive 235% above the 2020 monthly average. This is, of course, something to be celebrated but filling those jobs depends on candidate availability – something which appears to be waning. Recruiters are certainly noticing it and the June report confirms it, showing that applications are officially dipping, with the average number of applications per job decreasing for 5 consecutive months now. There are a number of reasons for this, a huge one being skills shortages in growing sectors. For the economy to continue to recover in the long term, beyond simply reaching pre-pandemic levels, we need to ensure that the fastest-growing sectors have the talent they need to support that growth.
In the OECD’S Employment Outlook 2021, the organisation has called upon governments in the world’s most advanced economies to support retraining and upskilling to help the unemployed and those who might find themselves out of work when furlough schemes end. The idea is to help workers from floundering industries to move into growth areas such as green energy, healthcare and technology. The unemployment rate is gradually decreasing but remains higher than before the pandemic. There are now plenty of jobs being created but without the skilled workers to fill them – and there lies the problem. There aren’t enough people with the right skills, particularly in emerging sectors in which new or advanced skills might be needed, to fill the many niche roles being created at speed. In industries such as healthcare, the need is not necessarily for new skills but simply for enough skilled workers. With increasing demand (due to an ageing population and an increasing need for services), yet a decreasing workforce (due in part to an exodus of EU workers), the skills gap is widening.
The UK Government’s Green Jobs Taskforce has pledged to create 2 million green jobs by 2030 but clearly, a tremendous amount of vocational training and upskilling will be necessary to ensure we have the requisite number of candidates with the right skills. Recruiters will need to fill an incredible range of different roles, in a number of different sectors. Skills needs will therefore also be wide-ranging, from skilled tradesmen to scientists and engineers, to communications experts, to data specialists. This will partly be met by those transitioning from brown energy jobs, especially as many will have relevant transferrable skills. We also need to look at grassroots levels, increasing the uptake of students studying STEM subjects that will help them to move into green jobs. Apprenticeships in green jobs will also be crucial, as will government-led programmes to boost awareness of these jobs and the training that is available.
WaveTrackR data has flagged Health & Nursing as consistently receiving the lowest number of average applications per job, and yet the sector is also frequently recorded as posting amongst the highest percentages of jobs. Clearly, we are looking at a skills shortage that needs to be plugged. Healthcare has historically struggled to fill positions but the pandemic has pushed many workers to breaking point, leading to an even bigger skills gap. And yet healthcare has been pinpointed as a growth industry by the OECD. Frontline, key workers are essential in order for economies to continue to recover and grow. These kinds of disparities need to be addressed and could be by retraining workers in areas where jobs are in decline.
The OECD report also highlighted evidence that some of the jobs hit hardest by the pandemic were at risk of being permanently replaced by automation even before it began. Since the pandemic has only served to increase the acceleration of automation and digital technologies, this could hit certain workers hard. The OECD noted marked dips in jobs for secretaries, entry clerks, travel agents, word processors and typists across the developed world. WaveTrackR data backs this up, with Secretarial, PAs & Admin receiving amongst the highest average numbers of applications per job. Workers in these kinds of slowly fading jobs can be targeted for retraining into sectors that need more candidates such as renewables or healthcare.
As digital innovation expands, the way we all work will change and the need for lifelong learning becomes more pressing. Employees and candidates in every industry must continue to upskill and reskill throughout their careers in order to stay relevant in current and future roles. We also need to look at the industries that consistently struggle to recruit skilled workers and strategise ways to encourage people to want to train in those areas. For the long term recovery of our economy, we need to be providing access to reskilling, especially in growth industries that both need the talent and have the capacity to employ those from sectors that aren’t experiencing such demand. Not only will reskilling and upskilling keep people in jobs and help people to find jobs, but it will also ensure that businesses can meet both current and future challenges and that the economy continues to recover and grow.