Public sector facing seven-year skills shortage

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The public sector will not be able to recruit the staff needed for up to seven years based on current demand, The Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) has warned

To maintain the stability of public service delivery over the next decade there needs to be an urgent evaluation of current recruitment procedures as well as the impact of post-Brexit immigration models, according to the REC's Public Sector 2025 whitepaper.

Data collected by the body found that 10,000 EU staff have left the NHS since the Brexit referendum. Meanwhile, over three-quarters (77%) of recruitment specialists say that health and social care staffing shortages will increase significantly over the next five years.

Interest in nursing roles appears to be declining, its research found. On the job site Indeed, job seekers interested in nursing only increased by 4% compared to an 11% rise in the share of nursing roles posted. Interest in care roles decreased by 8%.

The research also found that 47% of specialist recruiters in the education sector expect teacher shortages to increase significantly over the next five years.

The whitepaper noted that the public sector faces stiff competition from the private sector, especially for technology roles to maintain cyber security and to deliver the public sector’s ‘digital by default’ approach. It added that use of automation and AI over the coming years will further increase the need to attract and retain technology and digital experts to the sector.

The REC recommended four priorities for the sector to develop a high-calibre and agile workforce by 2025. These include: preparing workforce plans for different Brexit scenarios and building a cadre of future public sector leaders who can navigate a fast-changing landscape; pre-empting the impact of AI and automation on skill needs and using technology to enhance recruitment supply chains; and leading the way on inclusive hiring and ‘good work’ in the public sector to ‘re-brand’ jobs and attract the next generation of workers.


Tom Hadley, the REC’s director of policy and professional services, said that employers must keep up to date with workforce trends so they can navigate the challenges posed by Brexit.

“There has never been a more important time to review workforce trends and find solutions to current and future challenges. The public and private sector are increasingly fishing in the same limited talent pool, but there are real opportunities for public sector employers to compete by focusing on purpose and progression and by streamlining hiring processes, using new technology and really listening to candidate feedback," he said.

“An immediate priority is evaluating the impact that post-Brexit immigration models could have on staffing in the public sector," he added. "Employers need to take urgent action to future proof hiring procedures and workforce management to deliver quality public services.”

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