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HECSU Prospects: Work experience key to tackling skills shortages

Charlie Ball, Head of Higher Education Intelligence at HECSU Prospects
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Work experience is key to tackling skills shortages, according to analysis by HECSU Prospects published in a new report on Skill Shortages in the UK.

The Universities UK agency responsible for student and graduate employability analysed data in the government’s Employer Skills Survey 2017 to identify the main industries and occupations facing skills shortages in the UK and why so many vacancies are proving so hard to fill.

Of just under 309,000 vacancies in 169 different professional occupations, employers found it hard to fill a third. Vacancies that employers found hard to fill, specifically because applicants lacked relevant skills, qualifications or experience, accounted for 22%.

The top five hard-to-fill vacancies were nurses, programmers and software development professionals, HR officers, medical practitioners, and welfare and housing associate professionals.

These are also in the top ten roles taken by new graduates, suggesting that even though thousands of graduates enter those jobs every year, employers still find positions difficult to recruit and that supply and demand of graduates may not be as well matched as the economy requires.

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While HECSU Prospects found that a low number of applicants with the required skills was a common reason that vacancies were so hard to fill, applicants were failing to demonstrate sufficient work experience.

Nearly a third of employers reported lack of work experience as the reason they were unable to fill managerial roles (28.6%) and associate professional positions (27.6%).

The Institute of Student Employers reported firms had recruited 4% less interns this year than last year and offered 7% less placements

Charlie Ball, Head of Higher Education Intelligence at HECSU Prospects said: “Some of the more difficult recruitment challenges faced by employers trying to recruit professional workers come at managerial level and so this analysis is not merely a guide to demand for new graduates, but also an indication of where graduate development may need some focus.

“Particularly the need for graduates to have some form of work experience so they can develop and demonstrate key skills to employers is vital. It’s concerning that there seems to be less appetite for work experience among business this year. We have evidence to support that it is fundamental, not only to boosting employability, but to tackling skills shortages.”

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