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    The proportion of employers attempting to recruit has risen but two-thirds are still struggling to find the right candidates, prompting a call for skills development to be elevated to the top of the new government’s agenda.

    Sixty per cent of UK organisations were recruiting in the second quarter of this year, an increase from 53% in Q1.

    But finding the right candidate was a challenge for 64%, although this was an improvement on the percentage reporting difficulties in Q1 (73%).

    The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and Totaljobs, which surveyed more than 6,500 organisations, said reforming the skills development system was vital if Boris Johnson’s government was to alleviate labour shortages in the long term.

    They want to see a coherent and long-term plan to meet employers’ skills needs, as well as an efficient and cost-effective means of recruiting overseas workers at all levels.

    Claire Walker, co-executive director at BCC, said: “The solution to plugging the UK’s skills gap in the long-term includes reforming the skills education and training system, and giving it time to bed in.

    “We look forward to working with the new administration to get the system working better for everyone and ensuring firms can access the skills they need to improve growth and productivity.”

    She said employers also needed clarity on how they would manage their future workforce requirements after 31 October, when the UK is due to leave the EU.

    Almost a third (30%) of employers planned to increase headcount in the next three months, with construction firms reporting the greatest need to grow their workforce (38%). Just 7% of employers expected their workforce to decrease in Q3.

    Eight in 10 hotel and catering organisations that responded to the survey attempted to recruit in Q2, but the vast majority (77%) were for part-time roles. Transport and distribution firms were also in need of new staff (72%).

    Patrick Wehrmann, CEO of Totaljobs, said: “The labour market continues to weather economic uncertainty, with the vast majority of businesses showing a continued commitment to maintaining or increasing staff headcount.

    “As a consequence of not only an increasing national living and minimum wage, but also a continued challenge to recruit, it is telling that Q2 2019 saw the fastest rise in real-wage growth in over three years, outpacing inflation and expert predictions. As employers look to attract their next hire, there is an opportunity for people possessing in-demand skills to make significant progress in their career and begin to realise their earning potential.

    “In light of this, employers should be mindful of their employer value proposition, and ensure that while salaries remain competitive, they consider more than just pay as a solution to overcoming skills shortages.”

    By A. Webber

    New data from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) shows that UK employers’ intentions to hire temporary agency workers have risen dramatically amidst pessimism about the economic outlook.

    According to April’s JobsOutlook report, the balance of sentiment for hiring agency workers in the short-term was 10 percentage points higher than the previous month at net: +3. Sentiment in the medium term was at net: +1, up nine percentage points from the previous month.

    This is despite employers’ confidence in economic prospects for the UK dropping once again, by three percentage points from last month to net: -31. This is the lowest level since the JobsOutlook survey began measuring sentiment about the economy amongst Britain’s businesses, and is 57 percentage points lower than in June 2016.

    In contrast, employers’ confidence in making hiring and investment decisions in their own businesses remained significantly higher, at net: -4. This was a fall of three percentage points from the previous month, the second successive month that this measure has been in negative territory.

    Neil Carberry, chief executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, said,

    These figures emphasise again how Britain’s fantastic jobs market supports prosperity, given an uncertain economic outlook and lower business investment. Firms are only marginally less confident in hiring for themselves in today’s survey – and far more positive than they are about the wider economy. Given recent political events, these figures are remarkably robust.

    The more positive figures on hiring for temporary workers suggest that many businesses are turning to agency work to help them navigate the unpredictability they currently face. This might be driven by waiting to see whether permanent hiring is justified, or by using additional labour to meet demand rather than making big capital investments. In the long run, however, employment will be best supported by the stability a clear Brexit outcome will bring. It’s time to get on with delivering this.

    The delay to Brexit has given firms breathing space, and anecdotes from recruiters suggest that the jobs market has improved in the past few weeks. Building on this trend needs a deal – but it also needs action to address key staff shortages in some sectors. Employers are leading the way in addressing this, with the survey showing increasing activity on both training and inclusion. But government can help this process by reforming the apprenticeship levy into something that benefits all workers, through a flexible training levy approach.

    Following this quarter’s improvement in anticipated demand for temporary workers, 34 per cent of employers intending to hire temporary workers expressed concern over the sufficient number of agency workers with the necessary skills they require. Employers are ready to hire in some areas – especially where there are skills shortages. More employers planned to increase, rather than decrease their permanent headcount in the short-term, at net: +16. Over the medium-term, forecasts for permanent hiring remained positive at net: +19. Almost half (46 per cent) of UK employers expressed concern about the availability of permanent-hire candidates, with a lack of Engineering & Technical and Health & Social Care workers continuing to cause most concern. Four in five employers surveyed in March 2019 specifically (80 per cent) had either no surplus workforce capacity, or such a small amount that they may need to hire more staff if demand increased. Four in five employers surveyed in March (83 per cent) plan to offer training and upskilling opportunities to their staff in 2019 to increase the productivity of their business. Seven in ten employers surveyed in March (71 per cent) plan to actively promote inclusion and diversity, while 58 per cent plan to offer more flexible working practices in an effort to increase productivity.

    When employers sift through hundreds of applications from people with good CVs, nailing your cover letter could make all the difference between that high-flying job and the doldrums of unemployment.

    The eternal questions for job hunters are numerous: How long should my cover letter be? How formal should it be written? What are the do’s and don’ts?

    Basics first
    A formally structured letter is the place to start. Your address and personal details aligned right and the employers’ aligned left.

    Addressing the letter to someone mentioned on the job application is also essential, and “Dear Sir/Madam” if no name is given.

    When employers are drowning in job applications, the last thing they want to do is to trudge their way through page after page of flowery prose. Keep it brief and make it clear and punchy. But how long is too long? We recommend no more than a side of A4.

    Recruitment experts also say the key is not to just replicate the same generic cover letter for different jobs.

    Instead you need to tailor it each time to include specific skills and show passion for what is undoubtedly your dream job, even if it is not.

    Taking things to the next level
    Beyond the basics, what do job hunting experts recommend to up your cover letter game?

    Duncan Watt, who runs the website The CV & Interview Expert, told The Independent: “The best approach is to summarise the three to four most important things on the job description and then address these in a logical manner, highlighting briefly how your experience matches the requirements. “If it is a speculative letter then look at the key requirements of the kind of role you are applying for, and the companies stated values, and apply the same principle,” he added.

    Watt says one of the most common mistakes in cover letters is “overselling yourself, by making claims which if true would mean you don’t need a job as you are already hugely successful”.

    The other rooky error is talking about what you want from your next role. “Companies are generally more interested in what you bring to the table in the first instance,” he said.

    For candidates who have spent the time building their CV and work experience, it can be tricky to cram it all into one cover letter without waffling on.

    “Only cover things in the letter that relate to the company or job in question, if you have 20 skills but only four are relevant then focus on those four,” Watt said.

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