The UK's skills shortage is showing no signs of letting up anytime soon and could leave Britain in an even worse position in five years' time, a new report suggests.
PwC has published a projection for how the talent shortage will be affecting Britain's businesses in 2022, by which time it believes not much will have changed, except the demand for skilled workers will have increased even further.
Contractors and freelancers are integral to keeping the country afloat as these recruitment struggles continue, so here, we take a look at the anticipated extent of the skills shortage, as well as what contract workers can do to help ease the challenges faced by a growing number of organisations.
A look at the skills shortage of 2022
PwC released its annual CEO survey at the start of 2017, which led to the discovery that 83 per cent of business leaders in the UK are currently 'somewhat' or 'extremely' concerned about being able to hire the calibre of skilled talent that they will require over the next five years.
The report also suggests that if current hiring struggles continue at the same pace, the country will be short of three million skilled workers by 2022, despite the number of high-skilled jobs available growing to 15 million during this period.
This indicates that there will be plenty of opportunities on offer for workers, but that contractors need to be taking action to upskill themselves now, so they can continue to add value to their clients and prevent the skills shortage from worsening even further.
Will the fourth industrial revolution be affected by the skills shortage?
A relatively new area covered by this year's CEO survey was the fourth industrial revolution, which is also sometimes referred to as 4IR or Industry 4.0. This will be the era in which digital technology and machines are increasingly utilised for processes and jobs, which could go some way towards combating the skills shortage.
At the same time, however, skilled engineers and digital experts will be required to assist with the implementation of such technology - a situation that creates new opportunities for skilled contractors, but also exacerbates the skills shortage further.
Steve Hill, external engagement director at the Open University, commented: "As we consider what the heralded Industry 4.0 means for our future workforce needs, there is certainly encouragement from the fact that our economy is seeing growth in high-skill areas. The shape of our labour force must change to meet business requirements.
"Creating a high-skill workforce across the UK is key to boosting growth in all regions, particularly those that are currently suffering the severest skills shortages."
Therefore, with this in mind, contractors with skills set to be sought after during the so-called fourth industrial revolution need to make sure they are actively putting themselves forward for roles to help businesses out during what looks set to be a challenging period.
As the UK begins to navigate the official Brexit process, it will be looking to simultaneously spearhead a new industrial revolution, so all hands will be needed on deck to ensure the country remains in a strong competitive position.
But what about contractors themselves? How can they remain competitive amid the changing landscape?
How contractors can remain competitive amid the changing landscape
As the skills shortage continues to wage on, the focus will remain on knowledge and expertise. This is what organisations need access to and it's what experienced contractors and freelancers have, but why should a business choose one contractor over another?
Companies will be looking out for workers that can offer niche or high-level skills so they themselves can stand out among their competitors in the early days of both the post-Brexit era and Industry 4.0.
Contractors that want to position themselves as having these unique or niche skillsets may therefore need to take some time out from their daily responsibilities in order to attend training courses or work towards new qualifications. However, this doesn't have to mean abandoning their workload and leaving current clients unsatisfied.
Instead, limited company contractors and freelancers can engage the services of PayStream and their limited company service, My PSC. My PSC is designed to provide help and advice with the administrative side of running a personal service company, so that contractors can get on with completing contracts and upskilling themselves safe in the knowledge that their limited company is being run in the most tax-efficient way possible.