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Employers left scratching around for skilled job candidates

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Employers looking for good job candidates are finding themselves flooded with applications from people without the skills and experience needed to fill the positions advertised.

Meanwhile, talented employees are choosing to stay in their current positions on the premise that the grass is greener on their own side of the fence in these volatile economic times.

Those were the findings from the annual Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) Resourcing and Talent Planning survey which took in some 600 employers across the country.

Three-quarters (73 per cent) of organisations have noticed a marked increase in the number of unsuitable candidates applying for job vacancies, fuelled by the high levels of unemployment.

That said, more than half of employers (52 per cent) believe that competition for talent is becoming ever fiercer. In 2009, the percentage of employers who thought that skills were hard to track down was just 20 per cent.

The main reason for the difficulties encountered by employers is a lack of specialist or technical skills, with managerial and technical positions the most difficult to fill.

One clear contributing factor to the talent shortage issue, the CIPD argued, is that those who are in work are reluctant to switch jobs given the current economic uncertainty.

According to the research, the median turnover rate of employees has remained consistently low throughout the recession. In 2011, it is 12.5 per cent. In 2010, it was 13.5 per cent; in 2009, 15.7 per cent; and in 2008, 17.3 per cent.

As if to confirm the problem of a lack of inter-business mobility, changes in resourcing and talent practices among firms in 2011 compared with 2010 reflect a stronger focus on costs and reductions in budgets.

More businesses anticipate they will be concentrating on developing talent in-house and reducing their reliance on recruitment agencies and external consultants.

Education also proved to be a concern for many employers. Some 39 per cent of respondents to the survey expressed unease over increased tuition fees, worrying that the hike in the cost of higher education will affect the number of graduates coming into the labour market.

To offset the problems of a skills shortage, many employers are taking up Government schemes aimed at bridging the talent gap. Among the strategies used by employers are an increase in apprenticeships (30 per cent), a rise in internships (27 per cent) and the sponsorship of students through university (10 per cent).

Claire McCartney, the CIPD’s resourcing and talent planning adviser, said that, while high unemployment might have boosted the quantity of candidates, employers are not finding the quality.

Although the headlines focus on high levels of unemployment, she continued, the statistics mask an ongoing struggle for employers to unearth the skills and experience they need to drive their businesses forward.

Ms McCartney added: “Skills shortages are undoubtedly being exacerbated by ‘grass is greener on this side of the fence’ syndrome. Free movement of talented individuals is being impeded by a reluctance to voluntarily change jobs in volatile economic times – and the problem is worse now than it was at the height of the recession.

“With more cuts in the public sector expected and only marginal private sector growth, we expect a continued ‘safety first’ approach from employees, with many wanting to stay put for the next couple of years at least, making it difficult for employers to really drive competitive edge through the recruitment of talented individuals.”