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Figures suggest need for new approach to skills gap

Figures released today show that the UK continues to face a worsening skills crisis. Despite the overall rise in job creation, the vacancy rate continues to increase and is particularly acute in specialist areas such as IT and engineering.

The latest Labour Market Figures, produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal there are 588,000 more people in work than this time last year, but that there has been a 6% increase in the number of unfilled roles over the same period, as there are now 756,000 vacancies.

The on-going shortage in skilled workers is increasingly causing concern for businesses. Decision makers are facing up to the effects of this market; hard-to-fill vacancies can cause delays in developing new products and services. Meanwhile the latest CBI/Accenture Employment Trends Survey, published last week, reveals that more than half of respondents believe that developing and maintaining digital skills within their organisation has a new urgency in this climate.

Despite there being more than two million students enrolled on degree courses in 2014/15, with a 3% increase in full-time first year enrolments in engineering and technology subjects, businesses often find that graduates are not adequately prepared for the workplace.

The skills gap is affecting UK productivity; for instance, engineering companies have reported an annual shortfall of 55,000 skilled workers. It has been estimated that addressing the shortage of skills in this area could generate £27 billion per year from 2020, roughly equivalent to 1,800 new secondary schools or 110 new hospitals. The Open University is arguing that a greater emphasis on workplace-based higher education is necessary to create more value for businesses and individuals alike.