By Paul Phipps
As an agency specialising in accountancy practice recruitment, we have been experiencing a severe shortage of suitable candidates for our roles and with unemployment running at 4.4%, it is not just our sector that is struggling with the light flow of candidates.
On Radio 4’s ‘Money Box Live’ programme yesterday (28th February) the focus was upon the skills shortage across many sectors alongside falling wages, in real terms. What the contributors were saying, certainly rang true in our office, so much so, that my Co-Director, Debbie Curtis, picked up the phone and called in to give our perspective of the situation. She even got invited to participate on air towards the end of the programme, much to her horror. She handled it with great aplomb!
The broadcast can be heard here > http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09smh2d
The discussion on the programme was around the fact that even with the current high levels of employment and with vacancies at a record high, wages are falling by 0.3%, with average earnings lower than they were ten years ago, when adjustments for inflation are taken into consideration.
This is unusual because a high demand for labour and skills, usually pushes up earnings but that doesn’t seem to be happening currently. So why are we experiencing this nationwide anomaly across all sectors?
One reason might be that people are willing to work for less money, or feel forced to do so, and if employers think that they can get staff on lower salaries, they will. It makes economic sense for a business not to pay more than necessary.
Moving away from the general picture and back to accountancy practice recruitment, as Debbie said on the radio, the lack of investment in training within accountancy, during and after the last recession, has had a massive knock on effect on the amount of high-calibre part-qualified and qualified accountants available.
We are finding that generally, people don’t want to move to a new role that doesn’t give an adequate pay increase and it is our experience that when a candidate is offered a small increase, some are choosing to stay put.
The accountancy profession can be seen as a barometer of a county’s economic state. If businesses are doing well and new businesses are setting up, accountancy firms will see more business coming their way, increasing the demand for experienced accountants.
So, what’s happening here – why is there a skills shortage within thriving industries – and why are wages not reflecting this?
Historically, there has not been enough investment in training at foundation level and although this has improved, there is still a long way to go. In our sector, salaries are fairly reflective of the shortfall in candidates coming through, although, there is room for improvement. To attract talent, the package needs to be attractive.
We have no shortage of open vacancies and despite the salaries within practice being reasonable, we are still struggling to attract enough experienced accountancy candidates, and with accountancy practices being of an exacting nature, knowing exactly what they want, many of the applications we receive, fall short of the desired criteria.
What do you think? Feel free to leave your comments.