Job vacancies have hit record highs as the economy continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
The number of vacancies in the three months to August rose above one million for the first time since the Office for National Statistics began such records in 2001.
Which sectors are hiring?
The sector with most vacancies between June and August was health and social care, with 167,000 empty positions. This sector also had the highest number of unfilled jobs before the pandemic with 139,000 in the same period in 2019.
The hospitality sector has 134,000 vacancies, with many businesses reporting that openings are hard to fill. Some restaurants are closing on certain days or reducing their opening hours.
According to industry bodies, one in every five workers has left the sector during the pandemic, with Brexit frequently blamed for exacerbating the situation. Concerns about long working hours, job security, and pay may explain why many furloughed hospitality workers have not returned to work.
Covid’s disruption of education and college courses has also disrupted the supply of new talent.
The Science and technical category was third with 98,000 vacancies, followed by retail (83,000) and manufacturing (75,000).
Vacancies in the transport sector are also on the rise (47,000), amid a UK-wide shortage of lorry drivers. When much of the economy stalled during the pandemic, many European drivers went home, and have not returned. The current large backlog in HGV driver tests meant it’s hard to recruit new drivers.
Haulage firms and supermarkets are offering joining bonuses and increased wages to qualified drivers as well as apprenticeships for new recruits.
According to Tony Wilson, director of the Institute for Employment Studies, many industries, including hospitality and retail, are still struggling to readjust following the lockdown and the lifting of restrictions.
He claims that consumer demand has remained high, in part because household incomes have been “protected” by programmes such as furlough.
However, with more young people than usual studying and not working, fewer overseas workers, and more than one million on furlough, employers are forced to recruit from a smaller labour market, he adds.
What training and resources are available?
Since April, the government has offered almost 400 different free courses worth the equivalent of an A-level qualification, in subjects including accountancy, engineering and business studies.
Some institutions are also offering free short courses, for example, at the Open University.
The Prince’s Trust has free personal development sessions, to help 18-30 year-olds get into the health and social care sector. The charity offers mentoring, CV help, and can match jobseekers with suitable local employers.
How do I start looking for a new job?
Jobseekers should be ”strategic” and target sectors experiencing shortages as well as those that are growing, says Gerwyn Davies, from human resources body the CIPD.
The shortage occupation list – used to offer work visas to people moving to the UK – shows where workers are needed. It includes fields like engineering, web programming and graphic design.
Instead of looking for a specific job title, consider your core skills, suggests Corinne Mills, managing director of Personal Career Management.
For example, if you work in retail customer service, you may be able to transfer your skills to other people-facing roles, such as sales.
How can I find out which jobs are available?
Many businesses post job openings on their own websites or on job boards.
You can also join a general or specialised recruitment agency.
If you want to work for a specific company, find out whether they hire directly or through a recruiter.
And, if you want a specific job, be proactive and reach out to someone who currently holds that position to learn how they got there.
Professional networks can be beneficial as well. These could be LinkedIn or Facebook groups, or industry organisations where jobs and events are advertised and advice is offered.
Some industries and employers have set up virtual networking events and job fairs.
How can I stand out from other applicants?
With thousands of people applying for some roles, your personal network should be your first port of call, Corinne Mills suggests.
Friends, family, and acquaintances will collectively know hundreds of people, and some will be aware of businesses that are looking for new employees.
Many employers value personal recommendations, and you may learn about job opportunities before they are advertised.
According to Tech recruiter Amy Golding, tailoring your CV and cover letter for each application is time-consuming but more likely to result in a job.
Make a point of emphasising your skills and clearly listing your previous accomplishments. For example, you may have completed a recent project on time and within budget, or you may have acquired new clients.
Demonstrate your enthusiasm and explain why you want to work for this specific employer.
Before you send your materials, proofread them. Request that someone else read your application to help you spot any spelling or grammatical errors that could result in your CV being discarded.