The long road to sort out skill shortages in the UK

Traditionally, importing people was the primary strategy to solve skill and labour shortages in the UK. Recruiters roamed villages in Bangladesh to recruit workers for tyre factories. London transport sent recruiters to the Caribbean; the NHS heavily recruits nurses from abroad, etc. There are several examples in the years since the end of World War II.


Immigration rules are stricter and more complicated now. There is also a general backlash against immigration, so how can the UK overcome skill shortages?


The road is long and full of obstacles. The long-term answer is better planning and investing in education and training, creating an environment where people are encouraged to acquire new skills throughout their lives. It is not just a question of reviewing our education system. Business attitude to training must change/ “Investing in people” should stop being a slogan and start being an attitude. Maybe investing in labour-saving equipment can also lower the number of unskilled staff needed for some specific tasks. Improving working conditions and infrastructure may keep people from leaving certain occupations. All these measures are meaningless without planning and without changing the way we recruit.


It takes time to train people, even outside formal apprenticeship programs. Therefore, training implies thinking now about what you will need later. You need to consider how many people will drop out of the training programme or decide not to pursue the roles after training. All of this takes time,


It takes even longer to change the way you recruit people. Nowadays, too many recruitment processes are based on past experience; your track record is one of your greatest assets in the job market. The way you describe it in your CV is used to create keywords that are compared with the set of keywords in the job profile. Few business sectors recruit for potential. There are no keywords; you need to read a CV thinking of soft skills acquired during the previous professional life and how they can make the candidate easy to train. You need to recruit not just by considering a specific role but with a career progression in mind. Last but not least, think of how humans fit in an environment, or how people relate to people. A team does not necessarily need to be a group of identical individuals; on the contrary, everybody gains from being exposed to variety.


Pioneers thought outside the box; we need pioneers in planning, training and education, and – last but not least – recruitment. It may be following a long and winding road, but the more well-known paths have brought us where we are, time to take a turn. and be pioneers.




Silvano Stagni

Silvano Stagni, contributor at Parliament Magazine and managing director of Perpetual Motion Consulting and Research, asks whether we have the data to navigate the changes to the relationship between making the investment decision and executing it.