Can your chosen graduate career help plug the UK talent gap?

There are more than half-a-million skill-shortage vacancies in the UK, which employers struggle to fill due to a lack of skilled, experienced or qualified applicants. International graduates with relevant qualifications and talents in these areas will find it easier to get work – and perhaps even to obtain permission to stay in the UK longer term. So where are the biggest talent gaps, and how can your UK studies ensure you’re equipped to fill them?

The impact of the UK’s skills gaps

The UK has one of the largest talent shortages in Europe: 80% of employers said they could not find employees with the right skills in 2023, up from just 19% in 2018.

The impact is significant. One major organisational survey listed the top six problems as: increased workload for other staff (cited by 68%); reduced activity or output (49%); reduced profitability (38%); decreased staff morale (34%); reduced long-term growth or investment plans (33%); and inability to achieve strategic goals (29%).

Skills in demand include: IT and data; administration and office support; engineering; operations and logistics; front office/ customer facing and several others. We can’t explore all of those areas in this blog, but let’s take a quick look at some.

The STEM skills gap

One estimate says that a lack of STEM skills costs the UK economy £1.5bn per year. This is a very broad category, so let’s break it down a little.

First, engineering and technology. According to the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), there is a shortfall of over 173,000 workers in this sector, with 49% of engineering businesses experiencing recruitment problems.

Construction and civil engineering, for example, have a skills gap of “alarming proportions”.

Research and development (covering more than just STEM) is also an area of concern: the Government believes the sector needs at least 150,000 extra researchers and technicians by 2030.

Green skills shortages

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) believes that 1.6m green jobs could be created in areas such as renewable energy and electrical engineering in the transition to a net zero economy.

Luke Murphy of the IPPR said: “Unless we have the industrial strategy and necessary skills in place to take advantage of the green transition, we risk missing our net zero targets, and failing to take advantage of the opportunity that lies ahead of us.”

And some 46% of organisations lack confidence to adopt green technologies, making this another area ripe for enterprising international graduates. Read our recent blog on careers in sustainability to find out more.

The tech skills gap

But most focus is on the tech sector. Digital skills - encompassing data, IT and AI - are hugely in demand, and a UK degree in these subjects could give you a competitive edge.

AI and automation in particular are set to disrupt the world of work. Currently, some 67% of UK organisations say they are not confident about applying AI technologies, while a separate global survey suggests that 40% of workers will need to reskill as a result of AI in the next three years.

Remember: these are cross-cutting skills required in a number of roles and sectors. Even if they’re not the main focus of your career, it pays to have a good grasp of at least some tech basics.

The healthcare skills gap

Finally, the UK’s National Health Service has always welcomed the skills and commitment of international graduates.

Currently, there are 125,500 vacancies in hospital and community health services in England alone, with 10% of nursing roles and 7.2% of doctor positions unfilled. Could a medical career be right for you?

Talent shortages in the UK by sector

Let’s have a quick round-up of some of the main sectors in the UK suffering a talent shortage in 2024, according to a Manpower survey:

  • Healthcare and life sciences: 86% of organisations have difficulty finding the talent they need
  • Energy and utilities: 84%
  • Transport, logistics and automotive: 83%
  • Financials and real estate: 81%
  • Industrials and materials: 81%
  • Information technology: 77%
  • Consumer goods and services: 72%
  • Communication services: 71%

When you’re looking for your first career steps, these could be good places to consider.

Building your graduate career

So how can you capitalise on this demand and build a career for yourself in the UK? Let’s ask the experts – international graduates themselves!

Diksha from India graduated from UWE Bristol in Engineering, and now works as a systems engineer for GE Aviation Systems UK.

She says: “The opportunity to actually do a systems engineering pathway as part of my course gave me a head start in terms of being able to show direct knowledge and use the right terminology at interview.

“However, what was really great about the course was the emphasis it placed on working in teams […] In fact, when I went for my graduate job interview at GE Aviation, there was an entire interview devoted to teamwork, and I had so many experiences from UWE that I could use for this.”

Meanwhile, Daniel came to the UK from India to study IT, and now works as a Cloud Computing Consultant for Tquila Ltd in London.

He advises: “Give priority to getting experience in your specific field of study/interest. Acquire skills which are currently in demand. Also, acquire factory knowledge in your specific field of study. Research the market and find companies who are looking for the skills that you have and submit speculative job applications to those companies. Most importantly, make contacts with the employers and maintain a relationship with them even when your course is in progress.”

Register with Gradlink today

For more advice for international students seeking graduate jobs in the UK or globally, register today with Gradlink. We offer a free jobs board, a database of global employers, and careers advice.

By Q Content Published: Jul 02,2024

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