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A workforce doing things for itself

Updated: Mar 1, 2022

I’m sure you know there is a record number of job vacancies in the UK - £1.29 million at the last count! So, there are plenty of jobs to go round for the 1.37 million that are currently out of work.

The greatest increases can be seen in transport, healthcare and hospitality. This is unsurprising, given the ups and downs the pandemic has created in the world of work and the longer-term pre pandemic trends in these sectors.

This VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) environment of late has allowed, even pushed, people into thinking about their careers beyond any previous comfort zones or notions. They don't want to be stuck in low paid/low skilled roles anymore.

People are thinking about transitioning, older people are not returning to the workplace or perhaps becoming self-employed and younger people are staying in education. And the workforce is becoming more selective, increasing its self-awareness and looking at what it can do for itself.

A Quiet Revolution

What people are becoming increasingly aware of is the availability of choice. But choice is not easy. With choice comes the requirement to widen thinking around a problem. To dare to try something different.

More and more people are aware of opportunities (sometimes free) to learn new things, to train for new job roles, to identify future work opportunities. And it is this chance for self determination that seems to be an outcome of a 2yr pandemic. More than ever, the workforce is reviewing what is wants and, in my view, this is why people are reluctant to return to low paid/low skilled work without some sort of plan. Workers want the ability to be in control.

Whether this means studying after the kids have gone to bed, deciding to go back to further and higher education part time or finding work experience opportunities. This feels like quite a seismic shift in owning our futures, despite the government's surprise at why vacancies are being left unfilled.

Employers must play their part

And with these shifts in career expectations brings the needs for employers to work with this shift. Employers are no longer ruling the workforce. There is a trend towards collaboration about what is fair and appropriate for workers. As more and more unfair practices are revealed, employees are becoming a force for change in working hours, hybrid working, training and future prospects. Being employee relatable is key for employers. And now it's very easy to find out how an employer treats its staff – it's not difficult to research!

Skills can be taught

There is also the argument that there is a skills mismatch with the jobs being offered and that is why we are seeing so many vacancies. And whilst this may be true, I think it's a poor excuse for not employing someone. If a great applicant wants to learn, can be trained - give them a chance. We are awash with apprenticeships and NVQs - so nurture people so that they become part of a company family that cares about their employees futures.

Far better to get someone up to speed in a few months than noone in the job role at all, creating possible profitability/customer issues for the organisation. We underestimate the ability of people to learn, adapt and be great contributors to a business.

Students' degree choices impact labour markets and vice versa

And on top of all these things, there are areas of higher education such as chemistry that are not as popular as they were despite the huge vacancy vacuum which is hitting us now – these unfilled roles include Nuclear Engineer, Analytical Chemist, Pharmacologist, Forensics, Environment, Chemical Scientist, Lab Technician.

So, what could a help a workforce improve its lot?

1. Provide help for people to really take ownership of their futures – there should be free on-2-one expert careers advice for anyone age 16 upwards as part of an employer package, a volunteering role or someone who is in any educational or training endeavour. Currently access is underwhelming and difficult to identify and focused on the unemployed in the main.

2. Employers agree to collaborating and supporting employees so that they are at the heart of business

3. A futurist organisation that can bring together information on the changing and evolving future of jobs and what training might be needed to open doors, based on research, change and growth in the shifting work dynamic.

With these in place, we would have an effective, adaptable, forward thinking workforce that could drive its own future!

Elaine Latchford


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