By Gabriella Griffith Friday, 01 February 2013

Engineers needed urgently! Why UK plc's talent pool is getting narrower

With the news that the government has essentially decided on the route for the HS2 rail link, forget controversy and blighted landscapes. The question is whether or not the UK has the talent pool actually needed to build it.

There is a flip-side to the unemployment issue, one which is prevalent in the UK. Often it isn't that there aren't any jobs, it that the existing talent pool doesn't have the skills needed by employers. This is a huge worry for entrepreneurs up and down the country. When you’re setting up or trying to grow a business, having the most talented team behind you is essential.

Recruitment consultancy, Hays, conducted a skills survey at the end of last year and created an index that highlights skills imbalances across the globe.

In the report, chief executive Alistair Cox, said: ‘We are witnessing high and chronic levels of unemployment in many areas, while simultaneously seeing industries and countries struggle to find enough highly skilled individuals to fill the opportunities already available.’  He added: ‘[These shortages] may well get worse as many countries are simply not educating, or proactively attracting, the people they need to fuel their growth.’

The results for Britain were a worrying talent mismatch – the figure which indicates the inability for employers to find the skills they need. Britain sits at third on the list with a score of nine, doing marginally better than Ireland and the United States.

The areas with the greatest skill shortages were oil and gas, IT and areas of the financial sector such as risk and compliance. Graduates with STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills are highlighted as in particularly short supply. 

A study carried out by the Royal Academy of Engineering discovered that British industry would need 100,000 STEM graduates every year until 2020 to maintain current employment numbers. That’s 10,000 more than are currently produced – and many of those graduates are international students who wouldn’t be able to obtain visas to stay here and work anyway.

Clearly something needs to change if we are to address both the needs of Britain's entrepreneurs and fast-growing businesses as well as those of the vast pools of jobseekers.

We need greater clarity from government about what skills are needed, and then action to attract those skills to Britain. 

By Gabriella Griffith of Prelude, a consultancy for entrepreneurs.

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