Education and engagement: solving the skills shortage

With a British referendum, migrant crisis and China’s slowdown occurring, the lack of skilled workers available has become an increasingly prevalent global issue. In the recent Talent Shortage Survey by global recruitment agency Manpower Group, the figures of unfulfilled roles due to lack of skills is worrying. 

Some industries are faring worse than others; IT, healthcare, construction and professional services have the most prominent gap in skills. Worryingly, the shortage is having a direct impact on firms’ ability to compete, particularly in high-growth sectors. It creates the need to outsource, increases operating costs and can lead to the loss of business to competitors. This in turn can create greater stress on the existing workforce and thus a higher staff turnover.

Whilst accountancy holds a strong position as an industry with skilled workers, research by Randstad Finance and Professional states that the UK faces a shortfall of 10,200 qualified accountants by 2050. With the UK as one of the strongest performers in providing skilled workers, this leaves the rest of the globe in a vulnerable position. 

The skills shortage is not just an industry specific problem but also an international problem, with some countries doing worse than others. Most surprisingly may be Japan which has reported an 83% skilled worker recruitment shortage and Asia Pacific as a whole which has reported 51% of employers struggling to hire skilled workers. This is not only a concern for RSM as an international network, whose members recruit across the globe, but also for our cross-border clients who rely on recruitment in specific countries. Other countries who are suffering a severe lack of skills are Peru 68%, Brazil 61% and Greece 59%.  

A popular solution is improving the access to, and the quality of, vocational training. The City and Guilds of London Institute estimates that increasing vocational skills training could benefit the UK economy by up to £136bn over the next decade, and the Centre for Economics and Business Research suggests that a 10% increase in the number of upper secondary school pupils enrolled in vocational education could lead to a 1.5% reduction in youth unemployment. Therefore, not only would solving the skills shortage be a benefit to the industries which are lacking but also to each economy and their international offering. 

One benefit of the focus on filling the skills gap, is that more emphasis will be placed on the quality of training which candidates receive, rather than the quantity of candidates who are trained. At RSM we focus on providing staff with opportunities to learn further skills (especially international skills) that will help develop them as professionals. We believe that opportunities are the means to success and would like to see this attitude invested throughout all industries, schools and universities in order to create a generation of driven, engaged and interested people, with the skills to give them mobility and specialism. 


Jean M Stephens
Chief Executive Officer