Is upskilling the answer to global staff shortages?

As businesses around the globe recover from the unprecedented disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, another ongoing crisis is threatening company operations, profitability, and productivity – the global labour shortage. We’re now at a point where there are more jobs than candidates which means that while positions remain vacant, hard-working businesses are at a great disadvantage until securing sufficient cover.

We look at the current state of the UK labour market, the triggers behind the shortfall in skilled labour and remedies to ease the crisis, such as upskilling existing workers through personal development.

The current state of the UK labour market  

The UK labour market is suffering from a deficiency in workers which affects the ability of businesses to remain fully operational. Workers are the lifeblood of businesses and as they are left with no option but to open shop with a skeleton workforce, they may be forced to downsize their offering to cope with the discrepancy between their ability to supply and demand.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of vacancies from June to August 2022 fell to 470,000 when comparing it to Q1 2022 which is an improvement, although a 59% increase when comparing it to the January to March 2020 pre-coronavirus level, and a 20% increase from June to August 2021.

It’s worth noting that Brexit was instrumental in rewriting the rules on free movement for migrant workers before the pandemic, leading to a record number of unfulfilled jobs since records began in 2002, exacerbated by the pandemic. There is a notable difference between the number of job vacancies pre-pandemic and post-pandemic, taking us to the pain points behind the staff shortage.

What factors are fuelling the global staff shortage?

Global staffing issues mean that there are thousands of jobs open, but not enough suitably skilled individuals to fill them. Labour shortages have become widespread, leading to numerous problems across core industries, such as hundreds of flight cancellations affecting the aviation industry due to chronic staffing issues, to food shortages in the food and farming sector as a result of a shortfall in labourers to harvest foods.

There are many contributors to the global staff shortage, such as:

  • Covid-19 – Health setbacks from Covid-19 are long lasting for a large proportion of workers. Long covid symptoms are adversely affecting the day-to-day activities of 1.5 million people, with 19% reporting that their ability to undertake their day-to-day activities had been ‘limited a lot’, according to the Office for National Statistics.
  • The Great Resignation – The pandemic functioned as a time for recollection for many, providing workers with the opportunity to reconnect with old hobbies and embark on new career paths, leading to a wave of resignations, known as the Great Resignation.


From those suffering from burnout, yearning for more flexibility or simply wishing for a career change, the pandemic was a catalyst for change for workers around the globe.

  • Brexit – Britain’s exit from the European Union resulted in ending free movement, restricting travel for migrant workers which many UK industries depended on, such as healthcare and farming.
  • Ageing population – The UK population is ageing which means that more people are retiring or approaching retirement, which the pandemic fast-tracked. In the next 25 years, it’s forecasted that the number of people older than 85 will double to 2.6 million, according to The Health Foundation.
  • Cost of living crisis – A combination of record-high inflation, the energy price cap increase, and the soaring cost of living is pushing workers to seek higher-paid jobs to maintain their current standard of living.

In addition to more money, employers must understand that workers value progression which feeds into the retention and attraction of new talent.

According to analysis carried out by CV Library, those earning an annual gross income of £20,000 would need a pay rise of around £1,560 per annum to maintain their existing standard of living due to the cost of living crisis. Factoring in average pay growth, individuals would get a rise of £1,225 per year, resulting in a loss of £140, or £12 a month.

When recruiting, employers must transparently discuss progression opportunities and pay ladders as this will help in attracting the right individuals from the get-go.

Is upskilling the answer to global staff shortages?

Upskilling means developing an individual’s skill set and expertise by offering further training. By developing the skills of existing staff and increasing their knowledge and professional abilities, they can deliver a more comprehensive service to the business. This not only reduces the skills gap but also streamlines existing team structures and drives down recruitment costs.

How important is upskilling to employees?

Addressing the skills gap, a report by Go 1, one of the world’s largest corporate education content hubs, found that nearly 40% of employees have quit their job because personal development wasn’t provided.

Growth opportunities are instrumental in attracting and retaining staff as if there’s no room for progression, the more likely higher turnover will be as workers hop jobs to secure greater responsibility

The survey found that nearly two in five employees report being willing to leave their job due to a lack of growth opportunities. At present, nearly 40% of UK workers are planning to leave their jobs in the next 6-12 months, which will fuel the global staff shortage.

On the whole, the most common reason (60%) is seeking better career prospects. A lack of growth opportunities is a common roadblock for workers if employee needs are neglected and job packages fail to reflect flexibility and progression, resignations will be inevitable.

We offer a range of training courses and workshops to upskill your team including management training, interview training (for hiring managers) and many others. Find out more here.

This blog is a guest post from Sharon McDougall, a Scottish Trust Deed expert at Scotland Debt Solutions, a personal debt help expert for individuals in financial distress in Scotland.