As the skills gap continues to widen, we must look to the older generation - and gender disparity - to close it

Matt Gingell
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We’ve got to use all the talent available in the UK (Source: Getty) (Source: Getty)

According to the Office for National Statistics, the unemployment rate is 5.5 per cent and for the period June to August 2015 there were 740,000 job vacancies. The amount of job vacancies out there is almost at the highest on record.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see from these figures that there’s a skills gap with jobs and people not matching up. The cost of unfilled vacancies amounts to a staggering £10bn of lost GDP this year.

The skills gap problem has been around for a while. Recruiters have been struggling to match candidates with jobs across industry, and professions in the STEM industries - science, technology, engineering and mathematics - particularly affected. The construction industry has also had a bad knock.

So, what can be done to the plug the gap?

Alistair Cox, chief executive of Hays, wrote recently in this paper that it was crunch time for the UK, urging politicians to wake up to the problem.

Certainly there needs to be a better correlation between what teaching and training is offered in schools and universities and what skills the job market demands. Although the government has promised three million more apprenticeships, thought must go into the training and development opportunities on offer. Having a skilled migration policy which attracts world class talent is important, too.

But there’s another thing. We’ve got to use all the talent available here and, sadly, we’re not using the people who are available and willing to work.

Women are being overlooked. We know that because of the lack of women in senior positions and the gender pay gap. Providing opportunities and incentives for women means that their talent and skills can be fully utilised. Otherwise, what a waste.

And, what about the ageing population? Unfortunately, there’s evidence that older workers are being unfairly overlooked for promotion.

Employers, that’s foolish. With estimates of more jobs than young people entering the job market in the years ahead, and a management skills’ gap looming, you would be mad to disregard the talent of older workers.

There are, indeed, moral and business cases for abiding by our anti-discrimination laws.

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