Finance skills shortage leading to salary hikes

At the peak of the recession, there were hundreds of people chasing jobs in some industries across the UK.

But, as the economy has improved, so has the nation’s job prospects. Graduate recruitment at Britain’s top employers is set to reach its highest level for more than a decade this year, and the median starting salary at the country’s leading employers has increased to £30,000 for this year’s intake.

For finance roles we are now seeing demand outstrip supply and this has led to serious consequences for employers, causing salaries to dramatically increase  as companies fight for the best candidates to fill their positions.

Demand is high
As the accounting sector is expected to grow 11% through to 2024, the problem of unfilled openings that plagues accounting departments shows no signs of fixing itself. Overall demand is unquestionably high, with 72% of recruiting professionals saying they have trouble filling these positions. Specifically, the workers most in demand are the ones with specialised and proven experience that often takes years of industry career progression to cultivate.

Supply is low
Just as in economics, a shortage occurs when high demand meets low supply. With university coursework in accounting focusing on early-career CPA skills, gaps occur when these graduates do not receive additional or specialised on-the-job training. This has resulted in employers finding it difficult to fill an open position due to a lack of experience. According to industry executives and managers, these are the top 10 hardest to find skills in Finance and Accounting:

  • Leadership
  • Planning/budgeting/forecasting
  • Strategic thinking/execution
  • Cost management
  • Internal financial reporting/ performance management
  • Change management
  • Process improvement
  • Business acumen
  • Enterprise risk management
  • Corporate finance

Solutions are available
Steps can be taken to close the skills gap and recruit talent for roles, both currently and in the future. Accountancy firms are increasingly holding training sessions with secondary school students across the country, solely for the purpose of teaching them about the field and garnering their future career interest. While they may not be looking to hire a teenager, it will only be a couple of years before that student is looking for an internship and direction for their degree. Investing in the next generation is a great solution for the long-term success of the profession.

Retention of existing talent is also important and it’s vital that companies recognise this by demonstrating to candidates where future career progression will lead, by offering flexible working hours to enable them to pursue other interests or to juggle work and home life and by fostering a culture of reward where effort and success are recognised not just financially but with benefits that mean something to that particular employee, for example a free gym membership. 

37% of employers have also increased their training budgets to address the talent shortage. By investing in both internal and external training a company can not only augment a candidate’s skillset but also mould their particular abilities to suit the organisation’s current and future needs.

As a finance professional seeking their next step, our advice is to examine your current skillset and identify in which areas lie your strengths, where any gaps in knowledge or experience lie and the specific training you need to address this. That way, in a market where demand outstrips supply, you can demonstrate to a potential employer how, with a small amount of investment on their part, you could become their ideal candidate.

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