Written by Catherine Turner

Latest Employer Skills Survey published

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We’re proud that the latest Employer Skills Survey was recently published. We conducted the largest survey of employers that takes place in this country on behalf of Department of Education, which explores the jobs, training and skills landscape in the UK in order to inform policy and identify challenges in the labour market. It is the definitive source of labour market information for policy makers, practitioners and researchers.

To build a complete view of the labour market, our survey examines critical issues including:

  • which occupations are employers finding it hard to recruit into
  • what skills job applicants are lacking
  • what skills are needed in the workplace, and how they have changed
  • how much employers are investing in staff and how much training they implement

This survey is a complex large-scale telephone survey of 73,000 employers across the UK. Comprised of 59,486 interviews with employers in England, 3,400 interviews in Northern Ireland, 5,207 in Scotland and 4,825 in Wales. So far, the main headlines of the report have been released, with more to follow.

It’s an invaluable data source for the higher education sector, providing clear insight into what employers need from graduates entering the workforce and where the focus should be on course design and development.  Below we pull out the headline findings from the data that has so far been made available.

Skills gaps among both job applicants and the existing workforce are on the up

The most recent data from the survey shows that one in ten vacancies (10%) reported by employers, are classed as a skills shortage vacancy, that is a vacancy that cannot be filled because of a lack of skills, qualifications or experience among applicants. This marks an increase from 6% in 2017 (the last comparable data point)*.

When considered in the context of all vacancies, it means that more than one-third (36%) of vacancies are specifically skills shortage vacancies. Again, this is a marked increase in figures reported in 2017 when 22% of vacancies were skills shortage vacancies.

There is also evidence showing that there are increasing skills and knowledge gaps in the existing workforce. 15% of employers had at least one member of staff who they considered to be not fully proficient in their role. Again this is up slightly on the previous findings (13%).

Employers are training their staff less

At a time when there’s seemingly a need for more / better staff training, fewer employers are providing training.  Three-fifths (60%) of employers had provided training for their staff in the last 12 months, this was down from 66% in 2017.

The road ahead

Our knowledge of and expertise using ESS data is a shining example of the insight we can provide to universities about the labour market to help inform decisions around course development and careers services.  We look forward to digging deeper into this ESS data set exploring key trends by region and locality, and sharing these with you.



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If you’d like to understand more about ESS data and how you can use it to the benefit of your institution, please contact our Higher Education team.

Email our HE team