Just a couple of years ago, we were wondering what it would take to get the world’s economies moving forward again, yet here we are already with many of the major economies doing increasingly well and hopefully set to continue. While issues remain in certain markets, the Eurozone for example, business indicators across the UK, North America and Asia-Pacific show confidence is continuing to grow in those markets. That’s good news for job-seekers as companies gear up for growth and create more jobs.
What’s worrying, however, is how many of those employers are already struggling to find exactly the people they need, particularly in high growth sectors like science, technology and engineering. The skills they are looking for are simply not available in sufficient quantity to meet the industry demand and that is now starting to push up salaries in a number of markets, even when overall wage inflation remains very low. It’s a worldwide issue and, if not tackled, those shortages will hinder the long-term performance of organisations and economies alike.
My company recently published the latest Hays Global Skills Index for 2014, investigating this very issue. A key finding is that sectors such as construction, IT and engineering are among the hardest hit by a widening talent mismatch – a measure of the gap between the skills that workers can offer, and those that businesses are looking for. For many countries, these are the very sectors expected to drive their future economic growth.
It is ironic that after several years of waiting for a return to job growth, many countries are now struggling to fill these skilled roles. However, there is a solution if we are willing to tackle some prejudices.
It’s right that the first place to look for talent is locally, but when the right domestic talent is unavailable, organisations should have access to skilled talent from abroad –it’s better to fill a role than leave it empty. However, that will mean easing restrictions around the migration of professionals and making it simpler for businesses to attract the people they need from elsewhere in the world. Points-based visa systems seem best suited to allow this targeted approach, driven by the specific skills a country needs.
There is hope though and Germany is a good example of a country starting to tackle these barriers. Germany recently changed their immigration rules to make it easier for skilled workers from outside the EU to work in the country, with the specific aim of easing chronic shortages in key industries. Our research shows that this has helped reduce their talent mismatch.
Improving global talent mobility will provide short-term relief for the global talent crisis. However we also need to find long-term solutions to critical skills shortages, particularly in those key STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) sectors. The answer must be in the collaboration between industries, governments and education to detail the skills required, put in place the courses, apprenticeships and training necessary and provide the right funding incentives.
If governments are serious about long-term economic recovery, tackling the talent mismatch should be their top priority. The private sector knows how to create new jobs, and is doing so again. However, the public sector needs to put in place the environment to create the talent the private sector needs. That means business-friendly legislation, an ability to attract world-class talent and education systems producing significantly greater numbers of young people with both the technical skills industry needs as well as the life skills necessary to be employable in the first place.
The alternative is to leave huge numbers of highly skilled roles unfilled. That can only result in lower GDP growth, reduced investment in future job creation, and ultimately, undermines a nation’s competitiveness.
Published in collaboration with LinkedIn
Author: Alistair R. Cox is the Chief Executive Officer at Hays Plc.
Image: Employees of Fiat SpA work on a new “Panda” car at the Fiat plant in Pomigliano D’Arco, near Naples, in this December 14, 2011. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi