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How contractors can help prevent the UK skills shortage from becoming a 'chasm'

Paystream News

Kerry Hull

Tuesday 1st Nov, 2016

"The skills gap is fast becoming a skills chasm."

This is a warning from Hays, which has recently published the latest edition of its Global Skills Index, showing that the skills shortage affecting many major industries in the UK continues to also impact important sectors across the world. In particular, Britain's technical and engineering industries are at risk of splitting apart or crumbling due to the ever-widening skills gap.

However, limited company contractors could be ideally positioned to help add extra value to those sectors that are struggling, to help prevent a dreaded chasm from becoming a full-blown reality.

How the skills shortage could create a chasm

The skills shortage has led to what is known as a war for talent, with organisations finding themselves in a position where they feel they have to offer higher rates of pay or other rewards to workers in order to secure access to their expertise. As a result, competition among companies is increasing, creating something of a negative feeling among some industries, meaning a chasm could occur.

However, all firms are in the same situation, all wanting access to high-quality skills and workers they can trust to add value to their services, so they should be working together to create a strong industry to prevent it from splitting apart. With this in mind, the utilisation of contractors could be set to increase, as businesses could potentially share access to skills among them, helping to keep their sector afloat during this challenging period.

Meanwhile, Alistair Cox, chief executive of Hays, suggested that the tech and engineering sectors have a slight advantage compared to other industries when it comes to surviving the skills shortage, meaning there is no need for a chasm to occur at all. This is because inventions such as artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies will help to boost productivity and access to skills in these fields.

Mr Cox explained: "While we often hear daunting predictions about the number of jobs [artificial intelligence] may replace, my view is that these technological advances will bring huge benefits to the global labour market.

"We need to remember the millions of new jobs that will be created, many of which aren't even imaginable today. We also need to find ways of using robotics to make tasks more efficient, putting humans in control, making them better at their jobs and boosting productivity."

How contractors can prevent industries from dividing

As limited company contractors, freelancers and other self-employed individuals have significantly more control over their workloads and working hours than permanent employees, they are in an ideal position to take time out from their daily duties to upskill themselves, by attending courses or studying towards new qualifications.

What's more, contractors who work on a number of short-term contracts in a small space of time tend to get more chance to hone and nurture their skills in a variety of different situations. As a result, they are able to add high value to the clients they work for, providing them with access to their skills for a set period of time. During their contracts, they can pass on knowledge to other workers at an organisation, spreading their skills and helping to prevent the so-called chasm from becoming wider.

With this in mind, contractors should make sure they are utilising the services of a limited company service such as PayStream's My PSC, as this helps to lessen the administrative burden associated with running a limited company, leaving them with more time to spend completing contracts and upskilling themselves.

Hays also wants to see large businesses committing to three pledges designed to prevent a skills chasm from becoming a reality. These include addressing skills migration, implementing smart training programmes, and tackling low productivity levels through new technologies and better engagement.

Mr Cox concluded: "Organisations can never be productive if their people are not productive; people can never be productive if they are not engaged."

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