The UK is a great place to find a meaningful career, progress, and live a satisfactory lifestyle. It comes as no surprise that so many European and international students are flocking into the country to pursue their higher education and career development in an environment that motivates and supports them. In 2020/2021, there were 605,130 international students pursuing their degrees in the UK, which is an increase of 8.71% since the year before.
Yet, the UK is also suffering from unemployment, like the majority of countries in the world. Some cities and areas are better developed and have lower unemployment rates, while others are more affected by the severity of the problem.
Today, we look at what we can learn from the cities with the lowest rates of unemployment, in order to increase employment and help businesses find the best talent.
Unemployment in the UK
The overall unemployment rate for those aged 16+ in the UK is 3.8% for the period December 2021–February 2022. This is a 31.58% decrease from the same period in the previous year when the unemployment rate was 5%. Similarly, the employment rate in the UK increased by 1.07% for the same time period.
According to the Labour Force Survey conducted by the Office for National Statistics, the English regions with the highest unemployment rate in that period are the North East (5.5%), London (5.0%), and West Midlands (4.9%). The regions that are best tackling unemployment are the South West (2.8%), East Midlands (3.1%), and East (3.1)
The Centre for Cities has tracked unemployment rates across UK’s cities and largest towns. York (2.6), Exeter (2.9), and Cambridge (3.3) are priding themselves on the lowest rates.
But what are these cities and towns doing to promote employment, and what can other cities and organisations do to expand their workforce utilisation.
Investing in areas of growth
Employment opportunities are not lacking. The number of job vacancies in January to March 2022 rose to a new record of 1,288,000. This is a 102.51% increase since the same period the year before. The industries that have increased their vacancies between September 2021 and November 2021 are education, construction, wholesale and retail trade, and repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles.
So, one of the reasons unemployment is present is because the job vacancies aren’t distributed proportionally within the UK by utilising the strengths of each region or city.
York, which has the lowest unemployment rate, for example, is focusing on developing its rail sector, as it’s a hub on the nation’s rail network. It’s also investing in biotech and agricultural research.
Another prime example of investment in local areas is Cambridge. With an unemployment rate of 3.3, the city, which is world-renowned for its university facilities, has been growing significantly. It’s projected that the number of jobs will rise by 22% in Cambridgeshire between 2011 and 2031. There are already over 1,500 science- and technology-based companies, echoing the area’s investment in IT and technology.
Ann Dowdeswell, Sales and Marketing Director of the leading work uniform supplier Jermyn Street Design, commented: “The investment in areas of growth not only opens new job opportunities but also attracts students who can excel in those sectors after completing their education. Firms specialising in those sectors can also benefit from investing in locations where the industries and flourishing. This will feed into other promoting the growth of other external aspects of the business, such as supply chains, sourcing staff uniforms, and logistics. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.”
Additional training to overcome the current skills shortage
What’s also making York, Cambridge, Exeter, and the other top cities score low on the unemployment tracker is the investment in education and additional training. This will help with labour mobility, which is the ability to switch jobs and sectors by possessing transferable skills.
Amidst the current skills shortage in the UK, which is the most severe one on record, it’s especially important to target employees right away and equip them with the skills needed to promote labour mobility. In a recent KPMG pulse survey, 70% of the surveyed companies said that they found it difficult or very difficult to attract and retain employees. Flexibility in terms of skills and career development is also critical, according to 50% of the respondents.
This can be achieved through education and additional training. York, for example, launched its One Year Skills Plan, Helping People Through Change: Skills for Employment in York, to help both businesses and residents adapt to the changing work landscape amidst the recovery from the pandemic.
Upskilling can also help with tackling sector-specific shortages in an ever-changing environment. According to the 14th ManpowerGroup Talent Shortage survey, conducted in Q3 of 2021, the three most in-demand roles in the UK are operations/logistics, manufacturing/production, and IT/data. These sectors are dependent on digitisation and technology, which some employees might lack the knowledge of. That’s where certifications, programming courses, and apprenticeships can help.
Investing in developing specific areas and sectors, as well as in providing education and upskilling for employees is the key to tackling unemployment in the UK. It’s people who are paving the way forward, and we need to lay the basis to allow them to succeed.