Plenty of talent in the jobs market

The theme for Damian's latest column in the Petersfield Post looks at the talent available to employers amongst groups of the working-age population that they may not have considered before:

"Any idea how many job vacancies there are currently across the UK? Some may consider a figure around 150,000 a good guess, others might think a more bullish 350,000 closer to the mark, but in fact, there are more than 780,000 unfilled positions across the UK.

The latest employment numbers released by the Office for National Statistics last week remind us how well the economy is doing at creating jobs, with the unemployment rate running at 4.3% - the lowest level since 1975.

And East Hampshire is fortunate to have one of the lowest unemployment claimant rates in the country, but this does mean there is real competition for talent and resources across the area, and within the wider South East region.

Employers are finding it difficult to recruit the people they need, and that is a challenge for the thousands of businesses that are looking to grow but also for the UK economy overall.

One of the answers is for employers to cast their recruitment net wider, and search for talent amongst parts of the working-age population they may not have considered before.

There is evidence emerging from businesses that some of their best employees can come from disadvantaged situations. These can include the long term unemployed, ex-offenders, homeless people or care leavers. These individuals have often overcome barriers and personal challenges that create a positive skill-set and attitude that is lacking in others.

I in 5 people in the UK are disabled, yet only 48% of them are employed, compared to 80% of people without a disability. That is a shocking statistic by anyone’s reckoning. And a shocking waste of ability.

Taking on someone who is disabled is often not as difficult as first thought, requiring only a small amount of adaption or support. Some larger employers have even found a fall in absenteeism and better staff retention a result of employing disabled people, with a boost in overall staff morale and corporate reputation being happy and valuable by-products as well.

Another very important group that businesses need to consider is the ‘Over 50’s’. Too many older workers are finding themselves out of the workforce due to redundancy or simply a change of circumstance, such as needing to spend time caring for a parent, partner, child or even grandchild.

In East Hampshire, there are twice as many people over 50 claiming unemployment benefit as there are 18-24 year olds. Employers need to think how they can retain or attract this group, possibly with more flexible working conditions, or offering re-training through an apprenticeship - yes, anyone over 16 can do an apprenticeship, including current employees.

With 90% of businesses locally employing fewer than 10 people, it may seem daunting to consider any of the above as realistic recruitment opportunities, but I believe it’s not only the right thing to do as a society, but that the payback for individual employers will be more than worth the effort.

And there is help available, from nationally funded apprenticeship schemes, right through to practical support from local organisations and charities.

Where there is a will, there is most definitely a way.

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Article written by Damian Hinds and published in the Petersfield Post on 26th October 2017