Bridging the gap: the role of freelancers and contractors in solving the UK’s skills shortage

Skills Shortage

It has been well reported that the UK is the midst of a significant, and potentially disastrous, skills shortage. News reports crop up every couple of months informing us that the skills shortage list is increasing beyond what the country’s current workforce can cope with, as well as the anticipation of what negative effects this will have on the UK’s economy on a national and international scale.

A government report conducted in 2013 found that in the period 2011-2013 there were around 146,000 skills shortage vacancies in the UK, in comparison to just over 91,000 in 2011. With the number of skilled, qualified and experienced candidates for jobs in key sectors such as engineering, IT and construction seemingly on the decline, the problem is not difficult to see. But what about a solution?

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General Election 2015 – Surprise Tory gains lead Cameron to second term

General Election 2015

David Cameron remains the UK’s Prime Minister, with his Conservative party having made unprecedented gains across the country in last night’s General Election and securing a majority that nobody expected.

7th May was a night of victory for Cameron, as well as Scottish Nationalist Party leader Nicola Sturgeon, who saw her party secure an impressive 56 of the 59 Scottish seats in Westminster, effectively ending Labour’s dominance in the region and serving a huge blow to Labour’s ambitions nationally.

It was an overwhelmingly disappointing night for Labour leader Ed Miliband. Lead-up polls suggested a much better performance by Labour than actually transpired. From the announcement of those damning exit poll numbers, the evening grew worse for the younger Miliband. He resigned as leader on 8th May, congratulating Cameron and thanking his team, activists and the newly emerging “Milifandom”.

Miliband’s was not the only resignation of this most extraordinary election. Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, stood down as leader of the party after they suffered one of the most crushing defeats in recent British political history, describing it as a “cruel and punishing night for the Liberal Democrats”. They will send only 8 MPs to Westminster now, a significant drop from the 57 they secured in 2010.

Despite amassing millions of votes, the UK Independence Party failed to secure more seats. They held their seat in Clacton but leader Nigel Farage failed to win the South Thanet seat from the Tories and resigned soon after, before ‘unresigning’ a few days later.

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The insurance products no engineer can afford to forget

Engineering Insurance

We understand that when you’re freelancing, you want to focus on the job at hand and creating the best work possible. Sometimes, insurance products don’t come at the top of your to-do list and can seem like an unnecessary expense.

However, if you’re a freelance engineer, you occupy a unique and interesting position when it comes to insuring yourself. Your work is based on problem solving and solution finding, and more often than not, your work product will affect the public, not just your end client. It is for that reason that gaining access to adequate insurance cover should be at the very top of your to-do list!

What’s more, many (if not all) freelance contracts stipulate that a freelancer must be covered by a minimum amount of insurance, so your future contract jobs could depend on having access to quality insurance.

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A look ahead – what will the general election mean for freelancers and contractors?

General Election 2015

It pays for freelancers, contractors and the self-employed to pay attention to what is happening politically in the country.  Regardless of the outcome of any election, the independent professional community will be affected by policy making and the winning party’s stance on the self-employed and small businesses in general.

In research published last year, IPSE found that up to 90% of their freelance membership was likely to vote in the upcoming general election. Now, with just over a week to go until the day of reckoning, interest within the freelance community is at its highest.

With election fever well and truly in full swing we wanted to take a brief look at how each of the main parties proposes to support the UK’s freelance community and how independent professionals will fare depending on which party, or which coalition, assumes power on 7th May.

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Exploring the boom in self employment

Self Employment

There has been a healthy increase in total employment figures over the last 5 years, giving us all hope in the long, hard slog toward the UK’s emergence from the recession. What is particularly interesting to note is that much of this healthy rise in employment has been attributed to a boom in self employment, freelancing and contracting.

In August 2014 The Office of National Statistics published a report that found that total unemployment in the UK peaked at 8.4% in 2011, but has since fallen to 6.4% by 2014. The figures find that this drop in unemployment has been driven by as many as 4.6 million people deciding to make the move into self employment.

This figure presents a total of 15% of the workforce now identifying as freelance, compared with 13% in 2008 and 8.7% as far back as 1975. However, what is important in this case is establishing what these figures actually tell us about the state of freelancing in the UK in the 21st Century.

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‘Significant’ oil discovery near Gatwick airport announced

UK Oil and Gas

Oil and gas exploration, development and production group, UK Oil & Gas Investments (UKOG), has today announced that it has discovered somewhere in the region of 100 billion barrels of oil at Horse Hill near Gatwick airport in West Sussex.

The group, which undertook drilling in the oil-rich Weald basin region in South East England last year, claimed in a statement released today that the region could hold a potential 158million barrels per square mile. However, when compared with areas with similar geology in the US and Siberia, UKOG estimates that only 3% to 15% of that amount could actually be recovered.

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Health and Safety in the Oil and Gas Industry

Oil Gas Health Safety

It’s no secret that the petroleum industry is exposed to certain, very specific risks. If you’re a freelancer in the oil and gas industry then you will be more aware than most about the risks inherent in this line of work.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in its Offshore Strategic Context report for 2014-2017, outlines their priority for the health and safety of the UK’s offshore industry is maintaining the integrity of the existing infrastructure that makes up approximately 50% of current offshore platforms. The main aim of this is to avoid a major incident that could result in the death of any offshore workers.

With health and safety such a critical issue within the industry, there are a number of principal risks that the HSE find must be eliminated in order to ensure the safety of the more than 32,000 workers in the petroleum industry.

Risk of fire and explosion

Any release of hydrocarbon carries the risk of ignition, fire and subsequent explosion. Hydrocarbon releases, or HCRs, can be caused either by the breakdown or erosion of a station’s assets (pipelines, pipeline risers or process plants) or by improper maintenance.

In its report, the HSE highlights that the industry has noticed the importance of reducing HCRs and that by April 2013 there was a near 50% reduction in releases, and a plan had been set out to achieve a further 50% reduction by 2016. However, by late in 2013 there had been a 30% rise in releases once more. It’s clear that this is a continuing issue for the industry and one that could have deadly consequences if not attended to.

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Budget 2015 – Kingsbridge round-up

Budget 2015 Reaction

In his speech, George Osborne today promised that today’s final, pre-election Budget will “back the self-employed, the small business-owner and the homebuyer” proclaiming that Britain’s economy is once more on the rise, dubbing the nation, ‘The Comeback Country’.

Freelancers face a mix of measures following Osborne’s 59 minute speech yesterday, many of which appear to be aimed at making the life of the independent professional much easier, while some still target cracking down further on tax avoidance.

Despite Osborne’s insistence that Britain is in the midst of an economic comeback, much of the rhetoric used throughout the speech focused on further reducing the deficit and national debt, with Osborne even expressing at one point, “we choose… to use whatever additional resources we have to get the deficit and the debt falling.”

With that said, let’s take a look at some of the main measures from 2015’s Budget that are likely to affect freelancers, contractors and independent professionals over the course of the next year.

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Budget 2015 – the Contractor Wish List

Budget 2015

With just two days to go until Chancellor George Osbourne delivers his final Budget before the 2015 General Election, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) have released a new report detailing a Budget wish list for contractors and freelancers, outlining some of the changes they would like to see from The Treasury on Wednesday 18th March.

Let’s take a look at what some of their main proposals are and how they stand to benefit the lives of independent professionals across the country.

Simplifying the tax system

At the top of IPSE’s list is a call for the Government to commit to extensive tax simplification measures. This is a perennial issue, especially for one person limited companies, for whom navigating complex tax legislation (notably IR35) is a time consuming and costly issue.

Interestingly, Derek Kelly, Managing Director of ClearSky Contractor Accounting, writes for Contractor UK that he predicts that the UK’s independent professionals would actually appreciate maintenance of the status quo when it comes to tax legislation. Specifically, he believes that effective enforcement of current IR35 legislation would receive a warmer welcome than more rules and excessive complications being put in place.

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The 5 TED Talks every freelancer needs to watch today!

TED Talks

The daily grind can get you down. Sometimes, when you feel like you’re running low on inspiration and drive, you need something quick and impactful that you can watch to stop burnout from creeping in.

That’s where the plethora of TED Talks come in! Professionals from every corner and every industry sharing what inspires them, what gets them out of bed in the morning, all in under 20 minutes, can prove be the perfect antidote to an attack of apathy.

Check out our list of some of the best TED Talks out there and what we think every freelancer stands to gain from them. Go and get inspired!

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