The latest REC/KPMG Report on Jobs suggests that a skills shortage is beginning to make itself felt in the UK, with demand for permanent staff hitting its second highest level since the report began in 1997 but candidate availability declining at its sharpest rate for ten years.

February’s survey of UK employers also suggests that demand for Umbrella Company Employees and other freelancers in the professional contracting community held up well: the growth in temporary/contract vacancies – as measured by the Report’s Jobs Index – reached 65.1, which was just a fraction lower than the permanent Jobs Index score of 67.2. Index scores above 50 represent a growth in demand on the previous month.

Welcoming the continuing rise in vacancies, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation’s chief executive, Kevin Green, noted that the data was congruent with the REC’s JobsOutlook survey of employer hiring intentions, which points to growing confidence and more recruitment during 2014. Mr Green did sound a note of caution, adding: “However, the number of candidates available to fill vacancies continues to fall and this is becoming a business-critical issue in highly-skilled roles. Recruiters are struggling to source the managerial and technical skills that employers require, and this will only get worse as the economy strengthens.”

The implication for highly-skilled professional contractors could not be clearer: training a new generation of skilled candidates inevitably takes time, but business needs are pressing in the here and now. If employers cannot source the permies they need, they are likely to turn to Umbrella Company Employees and other independent professionals with the required talent in the foreseeable future.

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