UK – Job vacancies in Scotland rise, while vacancies stablise in Northern Ireland, IT sector dominates – Staffing Industry Analysts

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Job vacancy numbers in Scotland remained resilient in 2021, according to recent research from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) and Broadbean Technology.
At the same time, professional vacancies in Northern Ireland increased last year following a 35% decline in hiring during 2020.
The research found that the IT sector in Scotland accounted for the lion’s share of new jobs in 2021, followed by building & construction and engineering. Medical and nursing also featured in the top ten. There were more than 12,000 IT jobs listed alone across Scotland.
In Northern Ireland, IT jobs dominated hiring accounting for over a fifth of vacancies last year. Accountancy and engineering roles were the second most in demand jobs throughout 2021. Almost 8,000 IT jobs were advertised in Northern Ireland during 2021, significantly more than all other industries which could be explained by reports of early 2021 investment from tech and management companies like Deloitte and PWC.
While Scotland’s vacancy numbers increased, the data collected on applications per vacancy (APV) told a different story. Last year saw the number of individuals applying for roles down 40% on pre-pandemic figures with building & construction and medical & nursing reporting low levels of candidates (averaging nine and seven applications per vacancy retrospectively). With both featuring in the top ten for the number of new vacancies, the data shows a significant dearth of in-demand talent in Scotland.
In Northern Ireland the number of applications per vacancy last year were up on pre-pandemic levels. Call centre and customer service jobs reported the most applicants per vacancy, with an average rate of 35 followed by logistics (25) and admin and secretarial (17). However, many of the sectors that scored highly for the number of new jobs recorded had lower application numbers, with medical and nursing reporting an average of just two applications per role, indicative of the worsening skills shortage in the healthcare arena.  
When analysing the statistics by cities in Scotland, Edinburgh and Glasgow generated the highest number of new jobs last year, accounting for 54% of total vacancies across Scotland.
Edinburgh dominated in IT jobs, with nearly 6,300 new roles recorded, but Glasgow led the way in engineering with just under 2,000 jobs added. Conversely, Scotland’s two largest cities did not fare anywhere near as well on APV rankings, indicating that there are simply not enough professionals to support the cities’ recovery and growth plans.
Perth and Kinross reported the greatest number of IT candidates, averaging 38 applications per vacancy, while Aberdeen took the top spot in engineering, recording 33 applications per job.
Ann Swain, CEO of APSCo, said, “Our latest data clearly demonstrates a sector-wide demand for staff across Scotland. However, the tumble in applications poses a challenge for both employers and recruitment teams. If Scotland’s hiring landscape hopes to make a full recovery and continue on the growth trajectory we’ve witnessed recently, there is an immediate need to address this dearth of resources. APSCo has highlighted a number of methods to help alleviate the skills shortages in the UK, including greater flexibility in Apprenticeship Levy usage to support the ‘Levelling Up’ agenda, as well as the integration of an attractive work visa for self-employed highly skilled contractors.”
When comparing cities and counties within Northern Ireland, County Antrim was responsible for creating more than 25,000 jobs in 2021. Meanwhile, Antrim recorded almost 7,000 jobs in IT and over 3,200 accountancy jobs.
Swain added, “It’s extremely promising to see that Northern Ireland’s recruitment landscape is showing continued signs of recovery. Most encouragingly though, application numbers appear to be relatively stable across a number of sectors, bucking the trend that many economies are currently experiencing. The dearth of talent in areas such as medical and nursing does, however, show that employers in Northern Ireland are struggling to find people for highly-skilled roles – a challenge that won’t be easy to overcome while post-Brexit uncertainty around a hard-border in Northern Ireland remains.”
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