Focus: People Management - Skills gap still widening, says survey

Research argues the struggle to compete will lead to wage inflation, writes Graham Willgoss.

A widening skills gap is the greatest headache faced by recruiters in the voluntary sector, according to research that has just been published.

More than a third of recruiters in the voluntary sector - 35 per cent - identify a lack of appropriately skilled staff as the greatest pressure they will face during 2006, with 88 per cent saying that the skills shortage has increased over the past 12 months.

The research was commissioned by Charity People, the recruitment service provider for the voluntary sector, which talked to 100 recruiters in the charity, housing and local government sectors.

Paul Canal, managing director of Charity People, says: "Although the research is taken from quite a small sample, I think it rings true."

Canal believes there are serious implications for the voluntary sector as it seeks to compete with the private and public sectors for the best candidates to fill positions.

"It will lead to wage inflation that is higher than the sector average," he argues. "And although this should help to attract a better calibre of staff to the sector, many organisations will struggle with inflationary pressures.

"This could lead to charities relying on statutory funding to support the wage hike or, worse than that, posts being left unfilled."

Despite the difficulties recruiters are experiencing in sourcing the right talent, the research also suggests the not-for-profit sector is not managing to search more widely for the people it needs.

More than nine out of ten - 92 per cent - say they feel that commercial sector experience is valuable in the not-for-profit sector. But despite acknowledging the potential wealth of skills in the commercial sector, 60 per cent have not increased the number of people they take on from outside the voluntary sector in the past two years.

"The sector needs to get better at looking outside its narrow confines," says Canal. "It should make itself a more attractive place to work so it becomes the career of choice for young people and those seeking to change careers."

Other pressure points include 22 per cent saying they struggle with the need to create and maintain diversity within their organisation, and 35 per cent saying they strain to comply with the increasing amount of employment legislation.

Fifty-eight per cent feel the commercial sector is better equipped to deal with changing employment legislation because it does not face the same funding issues as the not-for-profit sector.

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