There is a growing skills gap and labour shortage threatening the delivery of sustainable communities and the public sector is finding increasing difficulty in competing with the private sector. A study commissioned by the Academy for Sustainable Communities ‘Mind the Gap’ has identified a lack of skills in the existing workforce and difficulties in recruiting sufficient people to meet future demand.
The greatest increases in labour shortages will be amongst landscape architects, urban designers, architects, sustainable development specialists, regeneration professionals and planners, reflecting the increased role of master planners and the emphasis on sustainable development in policy and practice. The levels of project management and financial management are also increasingly giving concern.
Competition for good professionals is both strong and increasing and private sector firms are consistently better able to attract scarce candidates. In comparison to the public sector there are fewer recruitment barriers. Government spending and employment policy affect how the public sector is able to organise their recruitment and the result is that staff levels in many public sector bodies are lower than ideal. The private sector is also staffed with a younger workforce.
Difficulties in recruitment and retention in the public sector are leading to the increasing use of consultants. People interviewed in the study described the primary importance of project management skills, because so much expertise is being bought in. The use of consultants extends across both large-scale delivery agencies and smaller scale projects which focused on the liveability elements of the sustainable communities agenda such as development of community strategies.
The survey report urges more effort in attracting new recruits and retaining them by providing attractive ongoing opportunities, including continuous professional development. The Academy will continue to promote sustainable communities professions by raising the profile of occupations and by providing enhanced entry routes for all ages. It will work with other relevant bodies, including Sector Skills Councils, professional institutes and the local government sector, to add value to each other’s work.
The report offers no response to the issue of the private sector attracting scarce candidates at the expense of the public sector.