Blue Eskimo

When is a skills shortage not a skills shortage?

Despite tough economic conditions, the L&D sector is doing well – so much so that skilled people are very much in short supply.

Skills shortages have less to do with numbers than they do with skills. This is partly about whether high-skilled, in-demand people are in short supply, but it’s more about matching available skills ‘A’ to available jobs ‘B’. In other words – there are jobs, there are people – but those people simply aren’t looking for work. They’re well-paid, looked after and working for someone they like.

Stick out a job advertisement and what happens? You’re inundated with dross, and maybe a few decent candidates. The great people, the best people, didn’t even see the ad.

There are no good people? We call nonsense on that. The reality is that if we as a recruitment provider can find and place people into jobs, the people are there. But you simply have to work a lot harder to find them.

As we said, the best people aren’t even looking for a job. Because they’re good, their employers minimise the reasons for them to look for an alternative employer. Not only aren’t these people looking for work, but they also probably don’t even have an up-to-date CV, can’t be bothered to knock one into shape and would dismiss an initial overture without much consideration.

These ‘hard-to-fill’ jobs account for a large and growing percentage of L&D vacancies, so this isn’t a trivial matter. 

So, it doesn’t matter that an average of twenty people are chasing these hard-to-fill jobs – many of them can’t get satisfactorily filled by conventional means. The recruitment process tries – jobs are advertised, people apply, CVs are processed, people are interviewed … but still the job remains unfilled. The applicants just don’t have the right skills. 

A tool like the LPI’s Capability Map is more than useful when narrowing down applicants. Ideally, the job ad is assessed against the Capability Map so it’s clear what you’re looking for. Also ideally, the candidate will have completed (and can complete) the Capability Map to give clearer evidence of being a solid match.

It doesn’t help that a lot of people apply for jobs when they just don’t have the skills to do them. This may become apparent when sifting CVs, or it may only become clear during an interview. In other cases, employers aren’t screening CVs and applicants well enough.

But another factor is how applicants are attracted. When the job is in the hard-to-fill category, advertising may well not be enough. It seems reasonable to look at the unemployment figures and the number of applicants per job and assume that every job could be filled ten times over. Well, they could – but not with people who have the right skills!

Finding those people needs a wider net casting – it may include advertising, though this could be ‘where they are’ rather than ‘where every other job under the sun is’. But it could also need a search-and-selection service – a company like Blue Eskimo to ‘go deep’ and find exactly the right person for the role. Someone we know can do it – because they have the right skills and are doing it now.