Using Data on Skills Shortages to Inform Curriculum Development and IAG

Recently, there has been an increasing focus in the press on skills shortages in the labour market. According to last month’s JobsOutlook survey by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), almost half of UK employers (48 per cent) expect to face a shortage of suitable candidates to fill permanent jobs in 2017. While this figure is significantly higher than those detailed in the UKCES Employer Skills Survey, which revealed that 22% of employers could not find candidates with the right skills, it highlights the potentially damaging consequences of unmet employer demand.

So what are the key occupations that employers are finding hard to recruit? The REC report highlights, unsurprisingly, that employers have consistently cited engineering and technical jobs as most likely to come up against a skills shortage. The Government’s Shortage Occupation list is an excellent source of information highlighting specific occupations that are struggling to recruit. The list details the occupations that are both in high demand in the UK as well as highly skilled (typically at RQF level 4 and above). Employers recruiting for these occupations are not required to advertise vacancies locally and are able to recruit employees outside of the EEA. Created in 2008, the list is a reflection of the government’s desire to encourage UK employers to train domestic workers and is informed by the Migration Advisory Committee. It is regularly updated according to the needs of the UK economy. It is noticeable how little the occupations on the list have changed, with the exception that the list has continued to shorten, particularly lower level skilled positions.

The majority of the occupations listed have been and continue to be in the engineering and technology and healthcare sectors. There are presently 34 broad occupations on the list including production managers and directors in mining and energy, physical scientists, civil engineers, social workers, musicians, chefs, graphic designers. For the full list see Table 1.  Many of these occupations are likely to be subject to further conditions, including minimum salary, qualifications or experience. 

It’s worth emphasising that this list only reflects some of the occupational skills shortages. In using labour market information (LMI) to inform curriculum development (as well as information, advice and guidance) a number of other factors need to be taken into account, including projections on sectors and occupations predicted to grow as well as decline, replacement demand which accounts for the majority of job openings and so on. There are limits to the usefulness of LMI to informing these areas and other factors need to be taken into account, not least what young people and adults actually want to study. Devising a curriculum offer based on LMI projections locally and skills shortages without also taking into account what learners actually want to study would not be a wise decision. If a student really is committed to say acting or beauty therapy and wants to apply to study it, no amount of beating them over the head with LMI data is likely to change their mind – and nor should we be trying to do so as advisers if the choice is a realistic and informed one.

Linking London will continue to update partners on LMI research as well as providing customised reports using our ESMI LMI interrogation tool. If you would like more information on our LMI work please get in touch