Skilled Trades Jobs Hardest to Fill Worldwide


By Roy Maurer June 9, 2015

For the sixth consecutive year, skilled trade vacancies are the hardest to fill in the United States and, for the fourth straight year, these jobs are the hardest to fill globally, according to newly released research on global talent shortages.

ManpowerGroup surveyed 41,748 employers in 42 countries and territories during the first quarter of 2015 to explore the extent of talent shortages within the global labor market, which job categories are particularly hard to fill and why, the impact of talent shortages on businesses, and how employers are responding to these challenges.

U.S. Snapshot

One-third of U.S. employers reported difficulties filling job vacancies due to talent shortages, a decrease from 40 percent in 2014. Globally, the percentage of employers experiencing difficulties continues to rise to pre-recession levels, increasing from 36 percent in 2014 to 38 percent in 2015, reaching its highest mark since 2007 (41 percent).

After skilled trades such as construction, plumbing and electrician occupations, the hardest-to-fill jobs in the U.S. were drivers, teachers, sales representatives, administrative professionals, managers, nurses, technicians, accounting and finance staff, and engineers.

While about half of U.S. respondents (48 percent) acknowledged that talent shortages have a medium to high negative impact on their business, one in five employers are not pursuing strategies to overcome this challenge, according to the survey.

Forty-three percent said talent shortages are having a negative impact on their ability to meet client needs, including:

  • Reduced competitiveness and productivity (41 percent).
  • Increased employee turnover (32 percent).
  • Higher compensation costs (32 percent).
  • Reduced employee engagement/morale (32 percent).

Respondents cited a lack of applicants (33 percent), lack of experience (19 percent), and lack of technical competencies or hard skills (17 percent) as the main reasons they are struggling to fill jobs.

Talent Shortages Increasing Globally

A larger percentage of employers reported talent shortages in 29 of the 42 countries surveyed when compared with 2014. The most notable increases were found in Singapore (up 30 percentage points to 40 percent), South Africa (up 23 points to 31 percent) and Romania (up 21 points to 61 percent).

Japan has the most severe talent shortage of the countries surveyed (83 percent of respondents reported difficulty), which has been the case since 2010. Around two-thirds of employers reported difficulty filling jobs in both Peru (68 percent) and Hong Kong (65 percent), while talent shortages are also a big issue for 61 percent of employers in both Brazil and Romania.

The hiring situation improved in 12 countries surveyed, six of which are located in the Americas. The most notable declines in difficulty finding applicants for jobs of 26 and 12 percentage points were reported in Argentina (37 percent) and Panama (46 percent), respectively, while decreases of 11 percentage points were reported by respondents in both Finland (22 percent) and Turkey (52 percent).

Nine of the 10 countries with the best jobs-to-fill situations are located in Europe. The lowest level of difficulty filling jobs was reported in Ireland (11 percent), followed by the Netherlands, Spain and the U.K., all at 14 percent.

After skilled trades, sales representatives rose up the list of hardest jobs to fill globally from fourth to second, engineers slipped from second to third and technicians fell from third to fourth this year.

The most common reason employers worldwide gave to explain why they face difficulty filling jobs is lack of available applicants (35 percent, up from 31 percent in 2014.)

Other reasons include:

  • Lack of candidates with the required technical competencies (34 percent).
  • Lack of experience (22 percent).
  • Lack of soft skills such as professionalism, enthusiasm, motivation and a learning mindset (17 percent).
  • Candidates with salary expectations that exceed what is offered (13 percent).
  • Candidates don’t want to work in the location where there are vacancies (5 percent).
  • The company, business sector or occupation has a poor image (5 percent).
  • Candidates are overqualified (1 percent).

What Employers Are Doing About It

About four in 10 respondents overall said that they are most likely to adopt new HR practices to address talent shortages. These strategies include seeking out new recruitment channels (22 percent), developing existing staff (20 percent), implementing alternative work models (18 percent), and exploring previously untapped talent pools (10 percent), such as candidates from outside their immediate region.

A smaller percentage of employers said they will offer enhanced benefits (5 percent) and/or higher starting salaries (5 percent), and seek to redefine qualifying criteria to include individuals who lack some required skills or qualifications but have the potential to acquire them (5 percent).

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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