Skills shortages around the world

We keep hearing about the worsening crisis of skills shortages in the UK, especially in the Oil and Gas and engineering industries. The fact of the matter is, if the crisis continues it may prevent businesses from taking advantage of economic recovery.  It’s not only the UK that’s suffering, many other territories are affected by a skills shortage in a variety of industries which is affecting their economy also. We’ve decided to take a look at the (potentially global) crisis to see what skills are lacking and where, and what plans are in place to bridge the gaps.

The UK

In a recent survey of over 90,000 employers it was shown that 1 in 5 job vacancies remained unfilled due to a lack of skilled applicants. This statistic accounts for 22% of vacancies overall, which equalled 146,200. That’s risen from 91,400 from two years previously.

The shortages are evident in trades like plumbing, health and social care, those with foreign language skills, manufacture and construction. The main reason for these shortages is a lack of skill in communication, literacy and numeracy. It can also be attributed to the fact that employers are hiring employees with a higher level of skill and knowledge than what’s actually required for the role, which can often lead to bored and unmotivated employees.  Low paid- low skill jobs don’t appear as desirable for British workers; this also adds to skill shortages. However, immigrants from eastern European countries are increasingly happy to take these jobs which helps to fill the job market.

Other issues may be that companies aren’t investing as much as they should in training and development; during the recession cutbacks were likely to have been made to this particular work initiative. A public push of the importance of role training and development within the media would help to ensure that workers are progressing and learning new skills to become proficient in their industry.

Looking at the disciplines that are suffering most from the shortages on the surface it seems we need to encourage more young people to pursue subjects like science, technology, engineering and maths to help fill future roles in the industries that are currently suffering.


The skills shortages in Australia are mainly linked to the mining industry; in the past few years much of the debate about the shortages has focussed on the need for migrant workers to come to Australia to fill the open jobs.  The current plan is to boost immigration intake by 30,000 a year to meet the skills shortages. Back around the early 2000s there was a mining boom which set of a massive growth in mining employment, but since the middle of 2012 it’s seen a huge downturn in growth suggesting that a lack of skills are beginning to affect the industry.

Similarly the engineering industry in Australia looks set to suffer a skills shortage in 2014. A slowdown in major infrastructure projects has led to companies focussing on smaller projects which have then led to senior workers moving overseas to gain the right job for their skills, or even retiring.

The lack of engineering and other skills in Australia will require targeted policies from Government and industry to support an effective approach to training, attracting and retaining the right sort of talent.


A recent report has shown that around a third of companies in Europe are struggling to find employees with the correct skills for available jobs. Of those vacancies over a quarter of employers said that they were unable to fill entry level jobs over the last year. For some this caused major business issues which could have been detrimental to their future.

Across the EU of the economically active population, 10.9% were unable to find work and for those under the age of 25 the figure rises to 23.6%. The countries with the highest unemployment rates showed the highest skills shortage, which suggests that there is a problem with educating and getting young workers involved in the industries suffering with shortages.

The report did show that the employers struggling did not engage enough with the education system and that those educating were wholly too optimistic of their students’ chances of finding work. For the shortages to cease there would have to be greater collaboration between educators, businesses and policymakers. A suggestion has been made to offer students’ financial support when studying for courses with a strong employment record and also for more businesses to sponsor students in their studies. As well as offering greater flexibility for those studying whilst working.

So there we have it a look at just some of the skills shortages around the world. With a push for greater links between the education and industry it is likely that the skills gap will begin to close. We’d love to hear your opinion, leave a comment below or tweet us @kingsbridgeprof.

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