Shortage of skilled workers – what it’s all about

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In the political debates on the labor market, there is always talk of an acute shortage of skilled workers. No wonder, because according to statistics, the shortage of skilled workers in Australia is at an all-time high. Whether educators, computer scientists, or craftsmen: employers are desperately looking for staff. However, it is important to differentiate: Are we experiencing a real shortage of qualified personnel or a lack of applicants due to poor contracts and working conditions?

We have summarized everything you need to know about the shortage of skilled workers, possible reasons and causes of the problem, and show you what we can do together to counteract the shortage of skilled workers.

What does skills shortage mean?

The term shortage of skilled workers is initially understood to mean the case in which the demand for skilled workers in a specific area remains unmet. As a result, companies have a larger number of vacancies than qualified specialists available for them. There is therefore a shortage of workers who have completed a suitable academic education or vocational training. Under certain circumstances, this can affect the entire economy, but usually only individual professional groups, sectors, or regions.

Skills shortage at an all-time high

After the pandemic years, employers are finding it much more difficult to find suitable staff than before. While there was still an unmet need for around 180,700 skilled workers in June 2020, this rose to a peak of 540,000 in spring 2022. In Austria and Switzerland, too, the shortage of skilled workers has reached an all-time high with over 200,000 vacancies.

Whether in academic professions in the medical or MINT sectors, i.e. mathematics, computer science, natural sciences, and technology, or numerous training professions: the bottlenecks can be found everywhere. The areas of health, social affairs, teaching, and education are particularly affected. Up to 60 percent of vacancies in Germany cannot be filled here. But the areas of construction, architecture, agriculture and animal husbandry, aviation, geography, IT, and energy technology are also affected by a shortage of skilled workers.

“Due to a shortage of skilled workers, more and more older people are being hired. Fluctuation has increased. Why work hard in a hardware store when you can work much more comfortably elsewhere?”

Effects of the shortage of skilled workers

The effects of the shortage of skilled workers are complex: not only individual companies are affected, the consequences can also be felt in the entire economy and in our everyday lives. According to a study, the shortage of skilled workers now poses the greatest risk to a company’s success – ahead of rising raw material and energy costs. Around 49.7 percent of companies in Germany have to cut back on their business due to a lack of staff. In Austria and Switzerland, too, companies have to accept a drop in sales.

Therefore, we already encounter the consequences in everyday life. Long waiting times in the restaurant, flight cancellations because there are not enough pilots available, or the appointment with the craftsman that is postponed by a few months – the list of affected areas is long.

How does the skills shortage come about?

“Where have all the people gone?” you must be wondering. Although the corona pandemic and its effects on individual professional groups such as nurses or gastronomy specialists have caused some to change industries, that alone can hardly be responsible for the current cross-industry shortage of skilled workers, right? We give you various reasons for the shortage of skilled workers:

Consequences of the pandemic on the shortage of skilled workers

Corona has turned our working world upside down. While some sectors experienced positive developments through the home offices and flexible working hours, working conditions in other sectors worsened significantly. Health and care facilities are particularly affected: Due to the significantly higher burden on hospitals and grueling working hours, there are hardly any skilled workers to be found. The hashtag #Pflexit has been circulating on Twitter since the beginning of the pandemic: more people are now leaving the nursing profession than entering it.

A large wave of voluntary redundancies has been observed in the USA since 2021. This mass phenomenon is described with the term The Great Resignation. According to this, many employees with responsible positions have drawn the line after months of the pandemic with high workload, uncertainty, hiring freezes and pressure to perform. There is a rethinking of employees who suffer from constant work pressure, are disappointed by their badly paid jobs and no longer want to put up with injustices in the economy and the labor market.

However, not all professionals resign voluntarily. For example, many pilots had to give up their job during Corona and work as train drivers or in local transport. Technicians from the aviation industry have switched to the automotive sector and hospitality professionals are often working in offices. Corona seems to have encouraged some job changes through poor working conditions, short-time work, and closures.

Demographic change and Generation Z

Another reason is demographic change. Due to the low birth rate in Germany, studies assume that around 3.9 million fewer workers will be available by 2030. In the currently aging society, the “baby boomers” are retiring and there is a lack of young qualified workers to compensate for this loss. In addition, “Generation Z”, i.e. young people born between 1995 and 2010, is a little more selective: the job should not only secure a living but also be a meaningful activity in which career opportunities, family friendliness, and enough free time are not neglected come. As part of the “Future Talents Report 2022”, most young people stated that family friendliness is an important aspect of their career choice.

These demands on employers make the search for suitable personnel even more difficult. Above all, sectors that can hardly or do not at all provide fringe benefits such as home office, flexible working hours or company childcare find it difficult to meet the demands.

Less educated, more educated

“Generation Z” prefers to study after school. In Germany, only 19 percent of adolescents complete an apprenticeship. Many young people are encouraged to study by their parents or teachers and the training is considered to be rather “unpopular”. At the same time, the rising trend towards academization means an increasingly declining number of trainees. This leads to an increased need for skilled workers with an apprenticeship, e.g. B. in gastronomy, logistics, or industry.

digitalization

The steadily advancing digitization in almost all economic sectors means that many professions are becoming less and less important. The labor market is shifting from employment opportunities with low-threshold qualifications, e.g. B. in the industry to ever more specialized and qualified professional groups in the STEM field, the z. B. are responsible for the automation of production. High demand meets a comparatively low proportion of graduates of STEM subjects. Although the proportion of women in these subjects is increasing moderately, it is only one aspect of overcoming the shortage of skilled workers.

Shortage of skilled workers or shortage of applicants?

If there is a discussion about the shortage of skilled workers, the shortage of applicants always plays a role. Both terms initially describe a problem of employee recruitment. However, while the skills shortage describes a shortage of qualified workers, a shortage of applicants means that there are potentially enough qualified professionals on the market, but they are not applying. Some experts see the shortage of skilled workers more as a result of a shortage of applicants due to poor working conditions and poor salaries.

It is important not only to focus on “Generation Z” and the workforce itself but also to look beyond the companies. “The Great Resignation” from America makes it clear: The demands of employees have changed and the change away from the employer market to the employee market can be clearly seen. Many people ask themselves: Do I experience variety in my job? Am I still learning something new? Do I experience meaningfulness in my work? Am I being appreciated? No? Then the willingness to change grows.

There is no doubt that there is a shortage of skilled workers in individual sectors, e.g. B. from the classic MINT professions and problems arise from this lack. However, a shortage of skilled workers can also distract from many deficiencies in corporate culture and often neglects a critical look at the prevailing working conditions in individual sectors or companies. After all, it is much more convenient to refer to the shortage of skilled workers than to realize that the recruitment of skilled workers is problematic or that the corporate culture does not meet the requirements of the employees.

What can we do about the skills shortage?

Due to the many different reasons for the current shortage of skilled workers, it is difficult to find a cross-sectoral solution. Nevertheless, there are certain solutions that can help to counteract the shortage of skilled workers.

Equality of professional and academic education

The educational path chosen by adolescents is, of course, a personal choice. For many industries, however, it would be a relief if vocational training became “fashionable” again. The industry and trade associations, for example, have only partially succeeded in making the respective training attractive for young people in recent years. Although many campaigns appear to be trying, they fail to meet the wishes of “Generation Z”. Schools or other educational institutions could have positive effects in reversing the “unpopularity of teaching” by motivating young people to complete an apprenticeship again.

Attractive corporate culture & active recruiting

Gone are the days when companies and organizations could wait for the right application to arrive in their inbox. The recruiting of every employer should therefore be optimized in order to attract the attention of new talent. In order to bind skilled workers to the company in the long term, employers should ask themselves how they can shape their corporate culture in the future and how they can get people excited about them. Companies that respond to the needs of “Generation Z” can benefit from this and counteract the shortage of skilled workers.

“One reads a lot about the shortage of skilled workers. It should be thought about offering free parking spaces, company cars, better than average salaries, delegating responsibilities, pointing out perspectives, etc.”

Recommendations on portals by your own employees

According to studies, the influence on decision-making processes of evaluation portals such as can influence a job seeker’s choice of employer. A positive and authentic employer branding can therefore help to attract new specialists.

Diversity & Variety

Another way to mitigate the skills shortage is to use the full potential of the labor market and develop workers who are not yet sufficiently involved. The integration of older workers, inclusion in the workplace, or re-entry opportunities for parents opens the company structures to many suitable workers who tend to be neglected in more traditional companies

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