‘Perfect storm’ makes it difficult for firms to fill vacancies

GUERNSEY is ‘belatedly waking up to the reality of a skills crunch,’ the chairwoman of the local branch of the Institute of Directors has said.

Wendy Dorey, chairwoman of the Guernsey branch of the Institute of Directors.
Wendy Dorey, chairwoman of the Guernsey branch of the Institute of Directors.

The most recent unemployment figures showed the number of people not in work is at a four-year low, but many recruiters are still struggling to find staff.

‘Guernsey’s recruitment and skills crisis is the result of many different factors coming together – it is a perfect storm of recent events such as Brexit, the rising cost of living and the long-term effect of the Covid-19 pandemic,’ said Wendy Dorey.

‘The ripple effect of Britain’s exit from the EU and the impact of Covid lockdowns resulted in Guernsey losing members of its workforce, particularly in certain sectors. Now, with the rising cost of living and housing shortage, drawing those people back to Guernsey has become more challenging than ever.’

The housing shortage is a major contributor to skills shortages as prospective employees are unable to move to the island due to unaffordable accommodation.

‘Not all skills can be acquired on-island and it’s unlikely this will ever be fully possible, so we need to identify more effective methods to develop workers’ skills in Guernsey’s essential sectors.

‘Guernsey has a reputation as an expensive place to live compared to some parts of the UK. This is partly due to higher property prices and limited housing stock, affecting first-time buyers, family homes and the rental market.’

As of the end of June, the number of people unemployed in the island fell to 272, a reduction of 12 from the previous month.

‘The cost of living is rising worldwide, however, we need to find a suitable solution appropriate for the island’s economy and housing development complexities – as well as focus on solutions relevant to the different sectors affected,’ said Mrs Dorey.

Most sectors are facing shortages, but as fund administration and fiduciary firms expand, more jobs are becoming available without the people available to fill them.

‘We cannot underestimate the pandemic’s effect on recruitment globally. Guernsey may not have experienced the same resignation levels as in the UK, but we rely heavily on the UK for off-island recruitment. As a result, we are seeing the fall out locally in junior and mid-level job roles, which could have long-term implications for our finance and professional services sectors, which are an essential component of our economic success.’

She said short-term action was needed alongside long-term planning to ensure the island had the right mix of skills and a community that is attractive to young people.

‘Collaboration between business and government, more vocational training opportunities, mentoring schemes, a focus on digital skills and ensuring Guernsey remains a desirable and affordable place to live are all critical to maintaining the islands’ economic and social success.’

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