Today the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) released their Employer Skills Survey, marking the third business survey in the series. Based on 91,000 interviews with employers across a host of sectors, the survey offers key information on the UK labour market.

Below we draw on the core findings from the 2015 survey:

• Recruitment activity was strong in 2015, with 19% of establishments reporting at least one vacancy at the time of the survey, compared with 15% in 2013.

• Skills shortage vacancies represent an issue for employers, with time management, work prioritisation, and specialist knowledge and skills being the main aptitudes lacking among applicants. Over two-thirds of employers with unfilled vacancies due to skills shortages had reported experiencing direct financial implications from this, including business lost to the competition, higher operating expenses, or the need to outsource work.

• Staff retention and ‘talent loss’ is identified as a problem within specific roles in sectors including Public Administration, Education, Health and Social Work, and Hotels and Restaurants. In the Education sector half of the surveyed establishments cited problems retaining Professional staff such as teachers. It is noted that talent loss can raise recruitment costs associated with the need for continuous staff replacement and is often related to the characteristics of the job as opposed to employee specific attributes.

• Skills underutilisation occurs where the skills and qualifications of employees exceed those needed to carry out their role. Survey findings indicate that 2 million staff have skills currently unused in the workplace, the main reasons for this being employee lack of interest in taking on a higher level role, and working hours in their current role better suiting them. The report notes that ‘under-utilisation represents not only a waste of individuals’ talent but also potentially a missed opportunity for employers to increase performance and productivity, improve job satisfaction and employee well-being, and stimulate investment, enterprise and innovation’ (pp. 8).

For universities working to build the skills of graduates as future employees, collaboration with businesses to establish those skills most needed and likely to be utilised represents an on-going agenda.

At the NCUB, this is also an area that we continue to focus on and will keep our readers updated about as we develop our bank of online and research knowledge on work experience as an approach to skills and talent identification.