White-collar jobs boom continues amid raging talent crisis

It’s official: The hiring market in the UK is showing no signs of slowing. While this is promising for staffing firms and jobseekers alike, skills shortages remain rife across the country, which will only be exacerbated if vacancy numbers continue on the same growth trajectory without a sustainable solution to the dearth of talent. And while the release of the government’s Levelling Up Whitepaper does show a promising commitment to increasing the professional skills of the UK market, there’s still more that can be done, including changes to the Apprenticeship Levy to make it more flexible so that the likes of agency workers can carry training over in their roles.

Perm placements up 84% year-on-year

APSCo’s latest data, provided by the global leader in software for the staffing industry, Bullhorn, reveals a significant increase in placements, with the number of candidates accepting new permanent professional roles increasing 84% between January 2021 and January 2022. Contract placements were up 12% during the same period.

In terms of vacancies, permanent white-collar jobs have spiked once again, up 28% in January when compared to the same time last year, with demand for contractors also up 38% year-on-year. Month-on-month figures also show a rapid rise in job availability, with permanent and contract vacancies increasing 104% and 78% between December and January, which can be attributed to a bounce back following a seasonal lull. This is in line with the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, which shows vacancies hit 1.3 million during the three months to January for the first time ever. Make no mistake, this rise in placements alongside a spike in vacancies will put increasing pressures on the UK’s recruitment market.

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Increase in sales revenue for staffing firms

This boom in demand for skills is resulting in an increasing reliance on professional recruitment firms to help source and secure much needed talent for struggling businesses. In fact, APSCo’s data on sales revenue for the recruitment sector reveals a significant jump in recruitment spend. Figures show a 59% and 60% year-on-year increase in sales revenue respectively for contractor and permanent placement. Clearly, employers see the value in engaging external experts to source vital skills during these unprecedented times.

Exciting market conditions

As Joe McGuire, sales and strategy director, analytics at Bullhorn, highlighted in our latest report: “Based on all the conversations I am having, I don’t think this level of productivity will surprise many. The market conditions remain very exciting, and we are going to continue to see a war for talent for some time. It’s important for agencies to be focused on improving efficiency and utilizing their existing candidate relationships in a much more strategic way.”

A plan to attract and retain access to skills

It is, of course, encouraging to see vacancy and placement numbers increasing. However, we are acutely aware that skills shortages are rife across almost every profession – and access to talent poses a significant threat to UK economic growth.

We also can’t forget that the UK remains a relatively unattractive place for highly skilled independent contractors who still have no viable and attractive visa route into the country. With vacancies showing no sign of slowing down, and employers struggling to source talent, action must be taken to not only allow the development of home-grown talent, but also access to highly skilled individuals from outside the UK.

The professional recruitment sector is best placed to advise on how we can best maintain access to vital talent. In its Access to Skills and Talent Public Policy plan, APSCo highlighted its government asks in order to create a labor market that is dynamic and flexible to address the skills shortages that are being felt across the UK. This includes the need to reform the Apprenticeship Levy to ensure independent professionals and other members of the self-employed workforce can also access skills training. Flexible, pragmatic training initiatives must be designed by government to maximize access across the workforce from school leavers to mid-life “lane changers” if it is to equip the UK labor market with the skills, experience and expertise in demand by employers and businesses both now and in decades to come. APSCo continues to lobby government to ensure the professional recruitment market is able to continue to thrive once the inevitable “settling down” period begins.

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