Professional recruitment is showing strong signs of recovery in both the permanent and temporary/contracting markets but a significant skills shortage is emerging, a new report from APSCo reveals.

Although IT recruitment suffered acutely during the recession, the latest trends report from APSCo shows that vacancies have been rising for three successive months. The less comforting news, however, is that placements have been falling, signalling an emerging shortage in vitally-needed STEM skills.

Umbrella Company Employees and other professional contractors appear to have been the immediate beneficiaries, however, as employers turn to them to plug the skills shortage. John Nurthen of Staffing Industry Analysts said that his own organisation’s research showed that demand for professional temporary and contract staff had been picking up noticeably for several months, a trend he believes will accelerate in the last two months of 2013.

The STEM skills shortage has the potential to impede general economic recovery, however. The Royal Academy of Engineering recently estimated that 100,000 STEM graduates will be required every year to keep the industry fully resourced; this is a figure the UK is failing to reach by 10,000 a year, with the current annual graduate rate being 90,000.

APSCo’s chief executive, Ann Swain, said that the new data revealed that many professional sectors were returning to growth; however, she warned that the STEM skills shortage, which is by no means a new phenomenon, must be addressed in the UK “before it’s too late”. She went on to say that government, educational institutions and businesses had so far failed to “make any meaningful changes”, adding: “Perhaps the answer lies with our European counterparts that have got it so right.”

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