UK Suffers Accounting and Finance Skills Shortage

Employment growth and a ‘brain drain’ abroad have triggered an accounting and finance skills shortage in the UK, according to the latest trends report from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo).

Permanent placements and vacancies continue to show signs of a sustained recovery, with rises for the third month in a row says APSCo, which analyses vacancies and placements across the UK professional staffing sector. The year on year decline rate has receded further and month on month (MoM) there has been a 1.4% increase in placements. Despite the holiday period when hiring historically slows down, the professional sectors of marketing, engineering and IT have all shown an average 1.5% rises in vacancies MoM.

Demand for accounting and finance skills has risen exponentially in the last quarter and APSCo members report a 7.5% increase in UK accounting and finance placements compared a year ago with vacancies showing an average 3% rise every month over the past three months.

According to online data, there was a 15% YoY increase in finance and accounting vacancies advertised during July and August across the UK. Recent research conducted by APSCo member Randstad suggests that the UK faces a shortfall of 10,200 qualified accountants by 2050 due to skills shortages, an ageing workforce and restrictive migration policy.

“The recent positive economic data, coupled with a marked fall in unemployment, is adding fuel to the growing skills shortages employers are experiencing,” said Ann Swain, chief executive (CEO) of APSCo

“While this skills gap was suppressed early in the recession, it is now coming home to roost in the professional sector and our members are reporting shortages of suitably qualified professionals not only in the accounting and finance arena but also in sectors such as IT, engineering and marketing. The skills shortages have always been there but as the recovery gains pace and employers have more confidence to hire, we could be facing a real problem.”

APSCo notes increasing shortages in the UK’s engineering and construction sectors with an average 39% YoY growth in online advertised permanent vacancies. IT vacancy advertisements have risen by 10% YoY while marketing media and creative job openings are up by an average of 15%. The temporary market is also busy with online advertising up 17% YoY across professional sectors.

The association adds that recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data showing that almost 1.3m Britons with university level education are now living abroad will add to the skill shortage issue.

“We are living in an era of the globally mobile professional and so UK employers are not just competing with each other,” said Swain.

“They are having to compete on a world stage particularly in the areas of engineering and technology in growth economies within the Far and Middle East. Now that we are seeing growth in the UK economy we need to entice our professionals to stay here and help sustain that growth – otherwise we could be in a situation where the vacancy supply and demand chain becomes untenable.”

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