Training is vital for organisations in addressing their skills gaps

Most organisations have taken an action to address skills gaps

The way that organisations address their skills gap depends primarily on where these skills gaps lie: ie with applicants or with current staff. Generally, organisations are more likely to have taken an action to address skills gaps in applicants (92%) than in their current workforce (86%) (ESS).

To address skills gaps in their current staff, voluntary organisations were most likely to increase their training offer (71%), including increasing their training activity, increasing training spend and expanding trainee programmes. This was more likely to be done in bigger voluntary organisations (86% of organisations with 250 or more employees) than smaller organisations (61% of organisations with 2–4 employees). Other popular actions taken included:

  • having more staff supervisions (62%)
  • more staff appraisals/performance reviews (55%)
  • setting up a mentoring or buddy scheme (46%).

Voluntary organisations were less likely to increase their recruitment spend/activity to address their skills gaps in current staff than organisations in other sectors (17% compared to 21% across sectors). However, bigger voluntary organisations with 100–249 employees were more likely to do this (32%) than smaller organisations with 2–4 employees (9%) (ESS).

Chart 11: Increasing their training offer was the most common way organisations address their skills gaps

For applicants’ skills gaps, changing their recruitment strategy was the main way that organisations addressed these. 43% increased their advertising or recruitment spend, and 35% used new recruitment methods or channels. Other measures such as redefining existing jobs were more likely to be used in the voluntary sector than other sectors: 18% of organisations did so compared to 14% in the private and 17% in the public sector.

Increasing salaries (7%) and contracting out work (6%) were less likely to be used compared to other sectors (13% and 14% in the public sector respectively and 8% for both actions in the private sector), however bigger voluntary organisations with 250 or more employees (19%) were more likely to increase their salaries than smaller organisations with 2–4 employees (3%) (ESS).

Training is a key solution to skills gaps

As mentioned above, one of the key measures taken to address skills gaps in their staff by voluntary organisations was to increase the training activity of current staff (71%). This is higher than in the private sector organisations (65%) but lower than in the public sector (75%). Of those that provided training, the majority provided induction training (72%) and training conducted online (60%) (ESS). This training was also more likely to be a mix of internal and external training (51%) and both on-the-job and off-the-job training (48%) (EPS).

Training was mostly offered to staff in service-intensive or high-skill roles (76% and 71% respectively). In particular, 80% of caring and leisure staff and 77% of associate professionals received training for their role (ESS).

Of those who did not provide staff with training, the main reason given was that their staff were already skilled (51%). Not having money available for training was also highly ranked by voluntary organisations (15%) and was much higher than the level reported across all sectors (7%) (ESS).

Training provision differed by size of the organisation, with larger organisations being more likely to offer training than smaller ones. For instance, almost all (97%) organisations with 250 or more staff offered job-specific training, compared to 78% of organisations with 2–4 employees. Similarly, 81% of organisations with more than 250 employees offered training in new technology, compared to 41% of organisations with 2–4 members of staff (ESS).

The amount of training given by organisations has remained relatively steady over the last few years, with the prevalence of organisations that have funded or arranged training ranging between 78%-80% in the period 2013 to 2017 (ESS).

Apprenticeships are a good way to gain skilled employees, but only offered by a minority of voluntary organisations

Apprenticeships are another way for organisations to gain the skills they need. 14% of voluntary organisations offered apprenticeships, which is a lower proportion than in the private (18%) and public (28%) sectors. The main reasons given for having an apprenticeship was that it is a good way to gain skilled employees (30%) and that it is a good way to give young people a chance in employment (24%) (EPS).

The main reasons for not offering apprenticeships were that they were unsuitable due to the size of the organisation (17%). Other structural issues such as apprenticeships not suiting their business model (14%) and apprenticeships not being offered generally in their industry (12%) were also given as reasons. Voluntary organisations were more likely to be unable to afford apprenticeships (12%) than the public (7%) and private sector (6%) (EPS).

Around one in four (24%) organisations planned on offering apprenticeships in the future. 12% currently offered apprenticeships and planned to continue to do so, and 12% do not currently offer apprenticeships but planned to do so in the future (EPS).

Around a quarter of organisations recruit non-UK nationals to address skills gaps in their applicants

Recruiting non-UK nationals is another option for organisations seeking to address a skill gap. However, data from the ESS does not specify if this is an intentional recruitment method of organisations or an incidental reflection of their recruitment pool.

Recruiting non-UK nationals was mainly an action taken to address missing skills in applicants (26%) rather than to address skills areas missing in staff (10%). It was lower than in other sectors, particularly the private sector which had the highest proportion of non-UK recruitment to address skills gaps in applicants (39%) and staff (16%) (ESS).

Of voluntary organisations who sought to recruit non-UK nationals to address applicants’ skills gaps, a quarter reported that their applicants were from the EU compared to 48% in the private sector and 22% in the public sector. Similarly, of organisations that recruited non-UK nationals to address the skill gaps in their current staff, 28% of employees were from the EU compared to 41% in the private sector and 25% in the public sector (ESS). This reflects the lower proportion of EU workers in the sector (4% in 2018) (LFS).

Spotlight: Brexit

As mentioned previously, a quarter of organisations which recruited or tried to recruit non-UK nationals to address applicants’ skills gaps recruited people from the EU (ESS). Additional data from the 2018 UK Civil Society Almanac shows that the proportion of EU nationals working in the voluntary sector decreased from 5% in 2016 to 3% in 2017. However, the 2019 UK Civil Society Almanac shows evidence that this decline has stalled, with the level of EU nationals working in the sector steadying at 4%. Any change in the proportion of EU workers in the voluntary sector is particularly likely to affect voluntary organisations involved in social work activities (eg family services and refugee assistance) and health, as these organisations tend to hire a greater number of EU nationals.

Research from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) highlighted the potential impact of Brexit on the European workforce in the voluntary sector. Currently, freedom of movement guarantees the right for EU citizens to live and work in the UK and receive equal treatment to the UK citizens. However, Brexit calls this freedom of movement into question and future immigration controls based on skill level could make voluntary organisations less able to recruit from the EU. For example, under current Tier 2 rules for non-EU nationals, around 82% of EU voluntary sector employees would be ineligible for a visa. The IPPR report also mentioned that the lack of funding available to train replacement UK staff could also be an issue that further impacts skills gaps.

One in four organisations have worked with other employers to develop skills in their workforce

One way that some organisations may seek to upskill their staff is by taking part in skill-share programmes or partnering up with other organisations. Both EPS and the Small Charity Skills survey found that connecting with other organisations or businesses was a key solution to addressing their skills gaps (see the section on small voluntary organisations for more information).

In 2016, 24% of voluntary organisations had worked with other employers to develop skills or expertise in their workforce, compared to 14% across all sectors. In 2014, a third of voluntary organisations had worked with another employer in the last 12 months with regards to training and development practices. While not directly comparable due to changes in the question, the general level of organisations partnering up with other organisations had reduced.

In 2014, when asked about the benefits of working with another organisation, the main reason given was that it enabled them to share best practice from previous experiences (58%) followed by ‘it helps to plug skills gaps’ (17%). A minority of voluntary organisations (2%) cited that these partnerships provided better or more skilled staff (EPS 2016 and 2014).

While no information is given on the specific schemes used by the organisations surveyed, in 2014 the majority of working relationships between organisations were informal or ad-hoc (62%) or a formal network (51%) (EPS).