The ability to attract global talent is one of the UK’s great economic strengths, but the continued ability to attract talent is not inevitable, and it isn’t uniform.  As the notion of the end to free movement of labour from the EEA, coupled with restrictions in visas for non-EEA nationals, begins to impact decisions, there is wide discourse about how employers will access the skills they need.  In certain places the issue is more acute.  Remote, rural and isolated locations, places with poor transport infrastructure and areas with very high cost of living relative to wages will find it harder to attract new skilled talent, and will need to work hard to attract talent and will need to rely more extensively on the local population, and on accessing training provision for lifelong learning.

In an article for Isle of Man Today (24 July 2018) Kurt Roosen, highlighting the difference between an Educational and an Economic skills gaps, neatly explores the changes in the local economy and how tech businesses ‘scale from the middle’ and the resulting impact on the skills they need to attract, and the skills and knowledge that the education system needs to provide.  If ‘places’ want to attract and retain fast moving, and highly mobile digital and tech organisations, they will need to galvanise the local skills ecosystem to feed the demand for talent.  It’s great to see that Digital Isle of Man is embracing this challenge.

For a ‘place’, whether that be a city, Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) area, island or territory, to create a talent ecosystem that supports the demand for skills across private, public and third-sector jobs it needs government, employers and the provider network to work collaboratively.

Employers need to unpick the traditional ‘sector’ focus, ‘occupation’ classification and narrow job roles.  They need to be able to align organisational goals to competencies required to achieve them, and build capability from there.  They should recruit and train the very best people they can find, those that will adapt and learn as the business grows, innovates and evolves.  Career paths should follow the organisational trajectory, not the occupational tradition.  No sector is immune from convergence.  Life science required data analysts, mobile phone companies are operating as banks and financial services are crying out for python coders.

Governments need to support the development of skills through effective policy that incentivises investment in training and policy that creates an education system that genuinely prepares people for the work that is out there.

Providers need to work with employers to understand the current and future skills demand, and create learning content that helps people understand, learn and develop the building blocks of these skills so that they can embrace change and grow with organisations as they continue to learn.

As we found recently in Gibraltar, recruiting people into the support functions, either locally or from overseas, can be tricky, but recruiting ambitious people who can be shown that this as a stepping stone into a digital career can provide a highly effective talent pipeline; so long as you can access, and are prepared to invest in, the development of skills and knowledge.

Over twenty years ago McKinsey published ‘War for Talent’; today, for a place to genuinely address the shortage of skills in exciting and fast moving organisations we need to ‘Collaborate for Talent’.

By Gareth Preece.  A Senior Consultant at Cullen Scholefield, he specialises in strategic workforce planning, talent strategies and organisational effectiveness. Gareth is the former Skills Specialist at the Department for International Trade, a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, a Member of the Institute of Economic Development and an Associate member of the Institute of Export (IoE) and a member of the IoE Academic Board.


  1. Fiona

    Certainly a thought provoking article, the issue is real and well known within the HR community and I believe that it is our responsibility to increase awareness amongst management and senior leaders to this problem.

    Hiring the perfect person (which clearly never happens!) and chucking them into the deep end is much easier on planning and time than a considered training approach for a person with potential.

    Slowly we are beginning to prove its worth via our talent pipelining programme with considered work experience arrangements and internship, year out, apprentice and graduate programmes to open up new pools of talent to fill our jobs.

    Collaboration needs to start at home on this one I think!!

  2. Susan

    An interesting read and great to see that Cullen Scholefield are already ahead on this.
    Kind regards to Gareth and the rest of the team


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