Tackling skills shortages: A lesson in defense

It’s no secret that employers across the globe are facing significant skills shortages. A growing gap between supply and demand of STEM experts in particular is hitting every sector. Across the defense remit the impact of this dearth of resources has been particularly noted, with the Ministry of Defence (MOD) highlighting in a report last summer that action is urgently needed to recruit and retain defense workers.

While there is no easy solution to this workforce crisis, our own report, Delivering the Defence Workforce of the Future, revealed a number of interesting insights that will work for both the sector itself and others that are facing similar skills shortages. With our data revealing that 93% of defense employers are concerned that a shortage of STEM talent will mean the UK’s defense capabilities will be outpaced by other countries in terms of technology, action is clearly needed. But how?

Contingent Workers Are Key

Temporary resources have long been considered a crucial means of filling resourcing gaps, and in the defense sector, this is no different. In fact, we found that 58% of employers in this remit rely on contingent staff in some way, and this looks set to increase.

Indeed, of the 27% that aren’t yet utilizing these resources, 10% are planning to do so. However, these workers are themselves in limited supply and, as competition grows, temporary talent pools will be drained. Our analysis suggests that some employers are already beginning to see the impact of this, with 53% of defense businesses stating that attracting and retaining contingent workers is their biggest challenge.

Clearly this talent pool has a role to play in filling gaps, but the bigger — and arguably more concerning — issue is the shrinking availability of these resources alongside a similar trend in permanent workforces.

PREMIUM CONTENT: Temporary Staffing Platform Update: 2024

Missed Opportunities

In this landscape, it’s crucial that every opportunity to expand access to skills is explored, and our study suggests that for the defense sector, diversity in the contingent supply chain is being overlooked.

Diverse recruitment practices are more widely adopted in the permanent workforces (though progress can always still be made), but they are far too often unheeded within the flexible workforce. In defense, we found that a commendable 80% of employers are committed to implementing unbiased hiring practices, but few are proactively taking the steps that support this.

Just 33% are benchmarking the progress of diversity initiatives or reviewing them regularly, while only 23% are proactively promoting jobs to underrepresented groups. If we look at the potential resources that are being missed, there’s clearly a huge gap in diverse recruitment that needs to be rebalanced. For example, just 39% of defense employers are proactively engaging with the LGBTQ+ community, while only 29% were targeting those from a disadvantaged background, and just 12% were engaging with care leavers.

For a sector that sees many veterans leave the Armed Forces with life-changing injuries, the realization that less than half (41%) of defense employers actively target people with disabilities is disappointing.

Defending Skills in the UK

It is encouraging, though, to see that half of defense employers are engaging with schools, colleges and universities to attract more STEM talent, while 45% are looking to upskill the existing workforce. However, given the concerns around the impact that a lack of these resources can have on the strength of the UK’s defense sector, every possible opportunity needs to be capitalized on.

Just 28% of these businesses are partnering with STEM associations and industry groups, while as few as 16% are working with specialist STEM workforce providers. These results may be focused on the defense sector, but in reality, we are seeing a similar picture across most industries.

It’s critical that every potential talent pool is being engaged with and invested in, not just for those sectors experiencing a dearth of resources but also for any business that is serious about the security of future skills availability. Diversity in all elements of the contingent supply chain and partnerships with diverse recruitment experts are just two missed opportunities that need to be addressed — and soon.

Joel Forrester
Joel Forrester is client solutions director at Guidant Global.

Share This Post


Recent Articles

Powered by staffingindustry.com ·