You don’t need to look far to find evidence of the severe skills shortages that are currently blighting the UK, with a national scarcity of Walkers crisps becoming the latest in a long line of everyday products that have become largely unavailable due to talent gaps across the supply chain. However, while gaps on supermarket shelves are visible indications that there is an acute shortfall of blue-collar workers, the professional sectors are also secretly struggling for skills.
The latest real-time statistics from Broadbean Technology indicate that the UK’s skills shortages across broader white-collar jobs are increasing, with application numbers across IT roles in particular showing a concerning decline in Q3 2021.
Our figures show that the total number of applications per vacancy in the UK dropped 49% between Q3 2020 and Q3 2021, while the number of vacancies during the same period doubled.
It should perhaps be no surprise that there is a significant disparity between supply and demand when it comes to digital skills, in particular. Even pre-Covid, businesses across Britain were battling to secure tech talent in order to keep pace with rapid technological advancements. Post-pandemic, the situation is chronic. According to our data, demand for IT skills across the UK increased 66% between the third quarter of last year and Q3 2021, which is indicative of the continued pressure facing UK firms to digitise their businesses and workplaces in a hybrid working model. However, application numbers fell 41% during this same period, indicating a decline in the readily available IT expertise that the county desperately needs as the economy recovers.
The statistics also suggest that employers are already beginning to feel the impact of this gap in supply and demand, with average salaries for permanent IT roles increasing by £2,607 in 2021 as firms turn to financial incentives to compete for talent. In addition, anecdotal evidence suggests that employers are also using other strategies to plug troublesome skills gaps, including promoting a compelling EVP to potential recruits, exploring underutilised talent pools and introducing training and development programmes in an effort to retain and upskill existing employees.
While our analysis indicated sector specific skills concerns across the IT sector, it is also worth noting that this dearth of talent is being felt across the board, with banking and finance firms also finding it especially tricky to source and secure the talent they need to thrive.
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The number of people applying for roles in financial services dropped 50% in Q3 2021 when compared with the third quarter of 2020. However, during this same period, the number of vacancies in the sector spiked 88%, which is indicative of a widening gap between supply and demand that could impact the UK’s financial services arena.
We’ve each witnessed the impact that the skills shortage has had on logistics and supply chains but, as our data demonstrates, today’s shortfall of applicants isn’t just limited to HGV drivers and warehouse operatives — it’s a widespread challenge that is impacting almost every sector across the UK and beyond.
The fact that we’re seeing an increased gap between the number of vacancies across professional services roles overall while the number of people applying for these positions continues to plummet indicates that the UK is facing a scarcity of talent that could soon reach a critical point.
The decline in IT applications, in particular, is a concern that every business in the country should be wary of. Make no mistake, it will affect us all. The shortage of specialist tech skills is an issue that has long been building in the country, and while the plans to ‘level up’ the country that the Prime Minister has outlined should help address this talent dearth to some degree, for the immediate demand, UK firms simply need to be able to tap into other talent pools easily, including international pipelines. For the financial services sector, meanwhile, much of this brain drain has arguably been driven by a loss of talent post-Brexit, and it’s clear that the sector is in need of more resources — and fast.