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.
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.
Industry bodies say one in five workers has left the sector during the pandemic, with Brexit often blamed for making the situation worse. Concerns over long working hours, job security and pay may explain why many furloughed hospitality staff have not returned to their roles.
Disruption to education and college courses as a result of Covid has also interrupted 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.
Tony Wilson, director at the Institute for Employment Studies, points out that many industries – including hospitality and retail – are still struggling to readjust after lockdown and the lifting of restrictions.
He says that consumer demand has remained high, partly due to household incomes being “protected” by schemes such as furlough.
However, employers are having to recruit from a smaller labour market, he adds, with more young people than usual studying and not working, fewer overseas workers and still more than one million on furlough.
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.
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.
Consider your core skills, rather than hunting for a specific job title, suggests Corinne Mills, managing director of Personal Career Management.
For example, if you work in retail customer service, this could translate to other people-facing roles, such as sales..
Many companies list jobs on their own website, or on recruitment sites.
You can also sign up with a general or specialist recruitment agency.
If you want to work for a particular company, check if they hire directly, or through a recruiter.
And if you want a specific job, be proactive and contact someone doing that role to discover how they got there.
Professional networks can also be useful. These could be LinkedIn or Facebook groups, or industry organisations, where jobs and events are posted and advice is available.
Some industries and employers have set up virtual networking events and job fairs.
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 should know of businesses which are hiring.
Many employers like a personal recommendation and you may hear about roles before they are advertised.
Tailor your CV and cover letter for each application, which is time-consuming but more likely to result in a job, recommends Tech recruiter Amy Golding.
Emphasise the skills you have and list past achievements clearly. For example, that you finished a recent project on time and within budget, or brought in new clients.
Show enthusiasm and give reasons why you want to work for this employer in particular.
Proofread your materials before you send them. Ask someone else to read your application to help spot any spelling or grammatical errors that could mean your CV goes straight in the bin.