With skills shortages continuing to blight many of the UK's industries, highly-skilled contractors and freelancers are in an advantageous position to benefit from these unfilled positions.
However, with demand for contracts often outstripping candidate supply, a significant number of contractors are naturally left without work, meaning they need to be doing all they can to build on their expertise when they are in between contracts.
The need for contractors to nurture and develop their skills has been mentioned in many of our recent articles but we've not yet detailed in depth what this should involve.
In this article, we're going to take a look at the current condition of the contractor market, before providing temporary workers with advice on how they can make sure they are in the best possible position skills-wise in light of the ongoing talent shortage.
What exactly is the skills shortage?
The term 'skills shortage' has become increasingly prevalent in the media over the past few years and refers to the situation whereby a business requires certain workers with specific qualifications or expertise, but cannot place them due to a lack of available skilled workers.
This situation can adversely affect the operations of clients, but limited company contractors, umbrella company contractors and freelancers who possess coveted skills can potentially benefit from it.
How worried are recruiters?
The most recent JobsOutlook from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), which looked at the hiring plans of recruiters during March 2015, found that a significant number of firms were struggling due to demand for skilled contractors outstripping supply.
Almost half (45 per cent) of clients said that they had no spare capacity to commit to new projects due to a lack of available workers with the right expertise, while a further 51 per cent of respondents reported only having a little spare capacity.
This indicates that businesses could be having their progress hindered because they don't have access to the right workers with the right skills.
Chief executive of the REC Kevin Green explained: "The biggest challenge, and a real constraint on continued growth in our economy, is the lack of candidates with the right skills to fill the vacancies clients have to offer.
"Employment is at a record high and yet businesses say they will need more staff if demand for their products or services increases.
"It's good news for jobseekers and people looking to move roles, but it's a headache for bosses as candidates become harder and harder to find."
Take advantage of targeted training
So how exactly can contractors make sure their skills are as up-to-date and desirable as possible?
A report published earlier this month by the Association of Accounting Technicians and the Centre for Economics and Business Research suggested that more targeted training is needed for older workers to help them to ensure their skills continue to develop along with advancing technologies and changing markets.
The two organisations believe that action needs to be taken to encourage older individuals specialising in the quarrying, manufacturing, agriculture and public sectors to adapt their expertise to keep up with new processes - something that could enable them to work on a casual contract basis throughout their retirement.
Nurture your skills in between contracts
Those who miss out on a particular contract should use this situation to their advantage, using the time to nurture their skills by enrolling on training programmes or studying towards new qualifications.
Even if a contractor regards themselves as already being highly-skilled, there will always be something new to learn or a new area of their industry to explore.
Contracting is a style of working that naturally results in having periods of time in between contracts that should be used to build on their expertise. This can increase their desirability among clients when it comes to applying for that next contract.
If the skills shortage ends, what can I do to remain competitive?
Although the end of the skills shortage is by no means in sight just yet, if the problem is resolved, contractors will still need to ensure they are nurturing and developing their expertise to place themselves in the best possible position to compete for any vacancies that become available.