3. Entry to work
Around half (48%) of Scottish employers had at least one vacancy in the 12 months preceding the 2019 study, and 43% had recruited. The proportion of establishments that had successfully recruited at least one person had decreased slightly (from 46% in 2016), possibly a reflection of decreasing unemployment rates.
Half of employers (51%) who had had a vacancy in the 12-month preceding the study collected information to monitor the diversity of applicants, rising to 77% of the larger employers with 100+ employees. The majority of employers (82%) do not though take any specific action to encourage a diverse range of applicants.
Three-quarters (74%) of employers were aware of the new gender pay gap legislation, rising to 95% of those required to report. Almost all (94%) of all businesses aware of this legislation said this had resulted in no changes to their recruitment practices and this was the case for the majority (58%) of those required to report.
There was an increase in the proportion of employers who had recruited older workers (42% hired someone aged 50 or older in the year preceding the study compared to 31% in 2016), however there was a decrease in the proportion who recruited a young person aged under 25 (60% compared to 64% in 2016).
In line with 2016, the majority of employers who employed a young person had used word of mouth or personal recommendation (59%), with a quarter (24%) relying solely on this approach to reach potential candidates.
Progress towards the 2018 DYW target of 35% of employers recruiting young people directly from education has stalled - 30% of employers had recruited an employee to their first job after leaving a Scottish school, college or university in the two to three years preceding the study compared to 32% in 2016. The majority of employers who had recruited an education leaver thought they were well prepared for work.
The 2019 Employer Perspectives (EPS) study was conducted during a time of economic growth and relative stability for Scotland. Brexit uncertainty will though be impacting on employers, potentially impacting on recruitment patterns in sectors more exposed to this risk. The Scottish Labour Market Strategy sets out how the desire to create an inclusive labour market with high employment will be met through measures including support for employability and skills, especially for those furthest from the labour market, to help those facing specific barriers.
These strategies and initiatives Scottish Government has in place, alongside other programmes of work, require an evidence base for employer recruitment practices, current attitudes and actions. The information presented in this chapter will contribute to understanding of the employment, education, skills and equality landscape by establishing benchmarks or indicating the extent of any progress.
Since the previous wave of EPS research gender pay gap legislation has come into force, and from 2018 most employers with 250 or more employees have been required to publish information on their gender pay gap. For the first time as part of the EPS series employers adoption of practices to monitor equality and diversity are measured, as well as awareness of the new gender pay gap reporting requirements.
In summary, this chapter covers:
- Overall recruitment activity: including the methods (recruitment channels) used to recruit and variations by size and sector, and factors employers look for when recruiting;
- Equalities and diversity in recruitment: considering action employers take to improve the equality of recruitment, awareness of positive action, awareness of the gender pay gap legislation and the extent to which this has influenced their recruitment approach;
- Recruitment of older and younger workers: including the recruitment patterns by size and sector, and methods used to recruit young people; and
- Recruitment of education leavers: examining recruitment from Scottish schools, colleges and universities, and employer views on individual’s preparedness for work straight from education.
Around half of employers had recently been active in the labour market, 48% had a vacancy in the 12 months preceding the 2019 EPS study, similar to 49% in 2016. Just over two-fifths (43%) of employers had successfully recruited at least one person during that time, a little lower than the 46% in 2016.
The proportion having had a vacancy in the last 12 months increases substantially with size (see Figure 3.1). The propensity for employers to have vacancies in the previous year increased along with size. This was the case for 23% of those with 2-4 employees, 59% of those with 5-9, 79% of those with 10-24, 91% of those with 25-49, 94% of those with 50-99 and 98% of those with 100+ employees. Correspondingly, larger employers were far more likely to have recruited over the previous year (96% of those with 100 or more employees, had done so compared to just 19% of those with 2-4 employees).
Figure 3.1: Proportion of establishments with vacancies in the last 12 months, by sector and size, 2019
Base: All establishments: 2,652 (2019); 4,009 (2016)
For base by size and sector see Table A.1.1
By sector, Public Administration, Education and Health and Social Work employers were more likely to have had vacancies (82%, 77% and 67% respectively). Employers in these sectors were also the most likely to have recruited in the last year (70% of Education establishments, 70% of Public Administration, 60% of Health and Social Work establishments).
Perhaps reflecting their likelihood to be smaller employers, Primary Sector and Utilities, Construction and Business Services employers were less likely than average to have had vacancies (32%, 34% and 39% respectively), or to have recruited (29%, 29% and 36% respectively). The lower recruitment rate in the Construction sector appears to contrast with recent growth in the sector (2% GDP growth in the first quarter of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018). This may indicate that larger employers were growing but smaller employers were not expanding their workforce in this sector.
Despite marked differences in employment rates across Scotland (Scottish Government, 2019b), vacancies and recruitment varied very little by region, though employers in Edinburgh and Lothians were more likely to have recruited than average (49% had done so compared to the Scottish average of 43%).
Employers in Scotland find around a quarter of their vacancies hard to fill due to applicants lacking the skills, qualifications or experience they require for the post. Being able to find candidates with the desired skills and experience is at least partly dependent upon the size of the audience reached when positions are advertised. The more widely employers can search for applicants, the the more likely they are to increase the number, quality and diversity of applicants and find appropriately skilled workers. Findings from the Employer Skills Survey (ESS) indicate the actions most likely to be taken by employers with current skill shortage vacancies are to increase their advertising or recruitment spend (42%) and / or to use new recruitment methods (31%), but this still leaves a sizeable proportion not taking proactive steps to expand their potential candidate pool (Winterbotham et al., 2018b).
This years EPS found that most employers who had recruited in the 12 months prior to the research had used multiple recruitment methods, but 20% of those with a vacancy were reliant on a single route to access candidates.
As shown in Figure 3.2, nearly all employers with vacancies utilised internal resources (92%) such as advertising on their own social media (56%) or website (53%). However the single most common approach was through word of mouth or personal recommendation, used by 78% of employers with a vacancy. A third (33%) of employers with a vacancy used solely internal resources to seek candidates; 12% of these employers used only word of mouth, which is likely to limit the range of applicants.
Three-fifths (63%) of those with a vacancy did use external resources to seek candidates, most commonly paying for a recruitment service such as press advertising (41% of employers with a vacancy). The specific types of paid-for recruitment services most used by establishments with a vacancy were paid-for recruitment websites which were used by one in five (20%), followed by recruitment agencies which were used by one in eight (12%). Traditional press advertisement was relatively rare, with 10% of those with a vacancy advertising via their local press, 3% via trade press or professional publications and 2% in the national press.
Figure 3.2: Recruitment methods used in the last 12 months, 2019
Base: Establishments with vacancies in past 12 months: 1,729 (2019); 2,605 (2016)
Overall, use of social media to attract applicants has grown (used by 59% of those with vacancies compared to 50% in 2016), with this now more common than employers advertising on their own website (though 41% use both). Use of Government recruitment services or schemes has decreased from 38% to 26% of those with vacancies.
As shown in Figure 3.3, the smallest employers with up to nine employees were those most likely to only rely on internal resources (48% of those with 2-4 employees compared to 33% overall) or only word of mouth when recruiting (27% of those with 2-4 employees compared to 12% overall). Virtually all larger employers with over 100 employees (92%) used some external resources to attract candidates, compared to less than half of the smallest employers (47% of those with 2-4 employees). Accordingly, smaller establishments, which account for over half of all employers, may be at particular risk of not finding appropriately skilled applicants as well as making it difficult for young people or others who may be under-represented in their immediate network to find work.
Figure 3.3: Recruitment methods amongst those with vacancies in the last 12 months, by size and sector, 2019
Base: All establishments with vacancies in the past 12 months: 1,729 (2019), 2,605 (2016).
For base by size and sector see Table A.3.1
Primary and Utilities, Arts and Transport, Storage and Communications employers with vacancies were most likely to only use internal resources to recruit (over two-fifths in each sector), with those in Primary and Utilities, Construction, Transport, Storage and Communications particularly likely to rely solely on word of mouth for recruitment. The impact of this limited approach to recruitment may have contributed to the Construction sector in Scotland being particularly likely to suffer from a high density of vacancies due to skill shortages and it being perceived poor for equality and diversity (Winterbotham et al., 2018a).
Public Administration and Health and Social Work employers were most likely to have used some form of external resource to recruit, which may also reflect their size (they account for a quarter of establishments with 250 or more employees), and many will have more formal ‘best practice’ recruitment policies seeking to ensure they reach as many candidates as possible (e.g. 75% of Public Admin establishments with vacancies advertised vacancies where the job design allows applicants to request flexible working arrangements, see Figure 3.5 below). Public sector employers as a whole were more likely to have accessed a Government service ( 70% of those with vacancies did so) and were also more likely to have used school, college or university fairs or services (40% did so).
Employers based in Edinburgh and Lothians and Glasgow were particularly likely to have paid for a recruitment website to advertise their vacancies (30% and 27% respectively of those with a vacancy did so compared to a Scottish average of 20%), and those in Edinburgh and Lothians were also particularly likely to have used a recruitment agency (21% compared to a Scottish average of 12%). This arguably reflects the wide geographical reach of jobs in these cities, especially higher skilled roles for graduates, which candidates may be willing to relocate for in some cases.
What employers look for when recruiting
To gauge what drives employer decisions on recruitment, the study measures the relative importance to employers of a number of factors: (a) academic qualifications (Maths and English as well as more broad academic qualifications); (b) relevant vocational qualifications; and (c) relevant work experience. Employers rated whether these attributes were ‘critical’, ‘significant’, of a ‘small amount of value’ or of ‘no value’ when taking on new staff (see Figure 3.4).
Figure 3.4: Factors looked for when recruiting, in 2019 and 2016
Base: All establishments (2019: 2,652, 2016: 4,009)
Relevant work experience remains a key factor for most employers when seeking suitable candidates, it is ‘critical’ or ‘significant’ for 62% of employers making it a more common requirement than any type of qualification.
Being able to prove basic competence in Maths and English via qualifications at least National 5 or 6 (equivalent to general or credit standard grade) is ‘critical’ or ‘significant’ for around half of employers (51%), though of no value for 20%.
Relevant vocational qualifications are important for just under half of employers, ‘critical’ or ‘significant’ for 46%, but of no value for 22%.
Particular academic qualifications such as Nationals, Highers or a degree are less likely to be important, with 27% saying they hold ‘no value’ when they compare applicants – but they are ‘critical’ or ‘significant’ for 35% of employers. This is a notable decrease from 2016 when 47% of employers believed them ‘critical’ or ‘significant’ and only 21% thought they held ‘no value’.
Employers who have recruited in the last year were more likely to think work experience critical than those who have not had any vacancies (24% compared to 16%), though it is less important for those who have recently hired a young person (19%). Employers who do not actually offer work experience themselves are almost as likely as those who do to think it ‘critical’ (19% compared to 22%).
By size of employer, larger employers generally assigned greater importance to each of the factors (except vocational qualifications) – see Table 3.1.
By sector some larger differences appear in the value different groups place on the factors looked at when recruiting:
- Work experience is most likely to be ‘critical’ or ‘significant’ for employers in Education (79%) and Primary and Utilities (71%). It was least likely to be ‘critical’ or ‘significant’ for Hotels and Restaurants (53%);
- Maths and English qualifications were more likely to be ‘critical’ or ‘significant’ for employers in Financial Services (71%), Business Services (67%), Public Administration (65%) and Education (65%) and less likely to be ‘critical’ or ‘significant’ for the Hotels and Restaurant sector (34%) and those in Primary and Utilities (27%);
- Holding a National, Higher, degree or other academic qualification was particularly important for employers in Education (critical/significant for 76%), Public Administration (64%) and Financial Services (59%). Such qualifications were relatively less likely to be ‘critical’ or ‘significant’ for those in Primary and Utilities (20%) and Hotels and Restaurants (12%); and
- Employers most likely to value vocational qualifications were those in the Education sector (‘critical’ or ‘significant’ for 73%), and to a lesser extent those in Health and Social Work (62%). As with work experience and academic qualifications, employers in the Hotel and Restaurant sector were less likely to say vocational qualifications were of ‘critical’ or ‘significant’ importance (30%).
Table 3.1: Factors looked for when recruiting, by size and sector, 2019
|Row percentages||Unwtd Base||Factors looked for when recruiting: Critical or significant|
|Relevant work experience||Math’s & English at National 5-6||Vocational Qualifications||Academic qualifications|
|2 to 4||643||%||59||50||42||32|
|5 to 9||608||%||60||51||45||34|
|10 to 24||619||%||69||52||50||39|
|25 to 49||364||%||71||51||57||43|
|50 to 99||161||%||68||58||61||52|
|Primary Sector & Utilities||137||%||71||27||42||20|
|Wholesale & Retail||525||%||57||50||36||25|
|Hotels & Restaurants||293||%||53||34||30||12|
|Transport & Comms.||170||%||56||61||40||29|
|Health & Social Work||274||%||66||46||62||44|
|Arts & Other||208||%||64||45||49||33|
Base: All establishments
Employers who had a vacancy but had not yet recruited were particularly likely to report that several factors – relevant work experience, English and Maths qualifications and other academic qualifications were ‘critical’ or ‘significant’. This may indicate that those with higher requirements were not easily finding candidates of sufficient quality.
Equalities and diversity in recruitment
The previous sections have considered broadly how employers approach recruitment and what they look for when recruiting. This section now considers the extent to which employers factor equality and diversity into their recruitment practices, including job-design.
A key priority for the Scottish Government, articulated in their economic strategy and other policy areas touching on employment, skills and the labour market is to improve inclusivity and reduce inequality. A series of questions covering the monitoring of equality and diversity, and any actions employers take during the recruitment process to improve the equality and diversity of their workforce have been added to the EPS study for the first time in 2019. These data establish a picture of current practices and provide a benchmark for the future. Good recruitment practices in terms of equality and diversity are not mandatory, though larger employers and those in the public sector have more obligations than other employers.
Overall, half (51%) of employers who had a vacancy in the preceding 12 months reported they collected information from applicants to monitor equality and diversity; 46% had not collected this information, and 4% were unsure if this happened. It was explained that this could include collecting information such as age, disability, gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. This figure is considerably lower than the 80% of employers who reported they had an equal opportunities policy in ESS 2017, which raises questions around the limited nature of these policies’ content, and the extent to which these policies are acted upon (Winterbotham et al., 2018).
As shown in Figure 3.5, larger establishments were more likely than smaller establishments to collect information from applicants to monitor equality and diversity (77% of those with 100+ staff compared to 44% of those with 2-4 employees). Raising awareness around the importance of equality and diversity monitoring among smaller employers (including those who may not frequently recruit), may be more costly than amongst the fewer larger employers who often recruit but would help ensure more applicants experience good recruitment practice in the long term.
Public and voluntary sector employers were markedly more likely to collect information than those seeking a profit (81% and 73%, compared to 43%). This difference is also reflected by sector, with with a majority of establishments in the public and voluntary sectors having the highest collection rates – around four in five of employers in the Public Administration (87%), Health and Social Work (80%) and Education (78%) sectors compared to less than two in five amongst employers in the Primary and Utilities (30%) and Hotels and Restaurants (36%) sectors.
Figure 3.5: Whether employers with vacancies in the previous 12 months monitored the diversity of applicants or designed jobs to allow flexible working, by size and sector, 2019
Base: Establishments which had a vacancy in past 12 months: (1,729)
For base by size and sector see Table A.3.1
Recruitment actions to improve equality
Moving beyond simply monitoring the diversity of applicants, employers who had recently had vacancies in the last 12-months were asked about specific actions they might have taken to improve the equality and diversity of their workforce during recruitment. Employers were asked about:
- The advertisement of vacancies which make clear that job design allows applicants to request flexible working arrangements – such as part-time working and job sharing.
- Positive action – being able to choose to recruit someone with a protected characteristic over other equally qualified candidates because they have identified that this protected characteristic is under-represented in their workplace; and
- ‘Blind’ or ‘no name’ recruitment – where non-relevant information such as the applicant’s name is anonymised on their application,
Employers were first asked if they were aware of positive action, and if they were aware, whether they had used it. They were then asked (regardless of awareness of positive action) if they had used blind recruitment or advertised vacancies where job design allows requests for flexible working.
As Figure 3.5 above shows, almost half (47%) of employers who had a vacancy had advertised at least one vacancy where the job design allowed applicants to request flexible working arrangements, such as part-time working and job sharing. Such roles may widen the potential candidate pool, for example to include disabled people whose impairments cause fatigue or those with young children and caring responsibilities.
Size is a factor in the uptake of good practice, with 75% of the largest employers (100+ staff) with vacancies able to offer flexible roles compared to 55% of those with 50 to 99 staff and 38% of those with 2-4 employees.
Public and voluntary sector employers with vacancies were more likely to have advertised such roles (70% and 66% compared to 42% of those seeking a profit), rising to 75% of Public Administration employers. Over three-fifths of those with vacancies in the Health and Social Work (68%), Education (63%) and Arts (62%) sectors advertised potentially flexible roles compared to only 16% of Construction employers and 22% of those in Primary and Utilities with vacancies.
Two-thirds of employers (65%) who had a vacancy in the last 12 months were aware of ‘positive action’. A fifth (19%) of establishments that were aware of positive action had used it to recruit someone in the preceding 12 months, equating to 13% of those with a vacancy.
Smaller employers had lower awareness levels, with 57% of those with 2-4 employees and a recent vacancy having heard of the practice. Around two-thirds (67%) of those with five to 49 employees were aware of positive action, rising to three-quarters (76%) of those with over 50 employees. The largest employers were almost twice as likely to have actually used positive action, 19% of those with 100+ staff who had a vacancy compared to 11% of those with between 2-4 staff. This is shown in Figure 3.6.
While ‘positive action’ is voluntary, it may be particularly useful for public sector employers who need to comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty. Accordingly, awareness was higher amongst public and voluntary sector employers with a vacancy than amongst private sector employers with a vacancy (76% and 76% compared to 63% respectively). Despite the fact that voluntary sector employers are not mandated to comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty, they consistently fall in line with public sector employers on related measures, suggesting a concerted effort to work towards equality in the voluntary sector. By sector, awareness was highest in the Public Administration, (78%) and Health and Social Work (74%) sectors and was lowest in the Hotel and Restaurant (60%) and Wholesale and Retail (60%) sectors.
Among those with vacancies, actual use of positive action was most likely in those sectors with the highest awareness (21% of those in Public Administration and 18% of those in Health and Social work) and was least likely in Business Services and the Construction sector (8% and 7% respectively) although these were not the sectors with lowest awareness, which were Wholesale and Retail and Hotels and Restaurants (both 60%).
Figure 3.6: Whether employers who had a vacancy in the previous 12 months were aware of positive action, whether they had used positive action and whether they used blind recruitment
Base: Establishments which had a vacancy in past 12 months: (1,729)
For base by size and sector see Table A.1.1
By region, awareness of positive action was notably higher in Glasgow (76% of those with a vacancy), though only 12% had used it. Use of positive action was more likely in Dumfries and Galloway (24% of those with a vacancy, with 70% aware). Awareness was notably lower in West Lothian and Fife (46% and 54% of those with a vacancy) and use was particularly unlikely in West (7% of those with a vacancy, despite 61% being aware).
Turning to use of ‘blind’ or ‘no name’ recruitment, this was less common – only 8% of employers with vacancies had used this approach in the last year. However the practice was far more likely among large employers – a quarter (23%) of employers with 100+ staff who had a vacancy in the past year had used it, compared to only 4% of those with 2-4 employees.
Use of this approach to avoid unconscious bias was more common in the public sector, where a quarter (26%) of those with vacancies had used it, compared to only 4% of employers seeking profit. Public Administration employers, and those in the Health and Social Work sector were particularly likely to have used blind recruitment (27% and 22% of those with vacancies) whilst the practice was almost non-existent in several sectors, used by 5% or fewer of those with vacancies in Construction, Manufacturing, Wholesale and Retail, Primary and Utilities and Hotels and Restaurants.
The McGregor-Smith review recommended that all employers should consider how they are portrayed online to attract a diverse pool of applicants, and the UK Government’s response agreed that this type of inclusive recruitment process is key to delivering long-term success (McGregor-Smith, 2017). In addition to being asked explicitly if they were aware of or used any of the above methods to monitor or improve diversity, employers who had had vacancies in the last 12-months were asked a more open, unprompted question about how they try to encourage a diverse range of applicants when recruiting.
The majority of employers (82%) could not identify anything they do to specifically encourage diversity in their applicant pool, with only 5% promoting inclusive messages about the company on their website or recruitment materials.
Even among those who monitor the diversity of their workforce, use positive action, blind recruitment and / or offer jobs designed for flexibility the majority reported they did nothing specific to improve the diversity of applicants, though it was markedly lower than those not using these practices. Employers who collect information to monitor the diversity of their applicants, for example, were more likely to take specific action to encourage more diverse applicants than those who do not monitor, but almost three-quarters still take no action (73% compared to 92% among those who do not monitor).It appears employers are more likely to be focussed on their selection procedures than considering the ways in which they might reach a wider pool of candidates to start with. Good practice during subsequent steps in the recruitment process might be more effective if greater consideration was also given to earlier stages.
Smaller employers were more likely to have not taken any specific actions to encourage diversity in their applicant pool than larger employers: this was the case for 84% of employers with vacancies 2-4 employees and just 57% of employers with vacancies and 100+ employees). This difference when compared to smaller employers was driven by their higher likelihood to have: (a) promoted inclusive messages about the company on their website or recruitment materials; or (b) to have altered the language used in their job adverts (18% and 9% respectively of employers with 100+ employees compared to 2% and 1% respectively of employers with 2-4 employees who had a vacancy in the preceding year).
The proportion of public and voluntary sector employers with vacancies who took no specific action was lower than amongst private sector employers (54% and 66% compared to 88%), with 11% and 13% respectively promoting inclusive messages on their website or recruitment materials. The vast majority of employers in the Construction, Primary and Utilities and Hotels and Restaurants sectors reported they took no specific action to encourage a diverse range of applicants (94%, 92% and 90% respectively of those with vacancies).
Newer establishments had rarely embedded this good recruitment practice, with 94% of those in operation for less than three years (that had vacancies), indicating they have taken no specific actions to widen the diversity of applicants.
Gender pay gap and recruitment
Awareness of the gender pay gap legislation which came into force in 2018 and any resulting changes in recruitment practices are also measured by the survey this year. Three-quarters (74%) of employers confirmed they were aware of the legislation which requires employers to publish annual statistics regarding the pay of their workforce split by gender.
Although only employers with 250 or more employees are required by law to publish their gender pay gap, awareness and any resulting action is checked amongst all employers surveyed regardless of establishment size – their site may be part of a larger organisation or there may be a ‘trickle down’ effect as smaller employers are prompted to consider their own pay structure in terms of gender. As would be expected awareness is almost universal amongst those with 250 or more employees (95% aware), but awareness was also relatively high amongst smaller employers (84% of those with 50 to 249 employees and 74% of those with 2 to 49 employees; see Figure 3.7).
Figure 3.7: Awareness of gender pay gap legislation, by size and sector
Base: All establishments: (2,652)
For base by size and sector see Table A.3.1
Awareness amongst private sector employers is in-line with that of their public and voluntary counterparts. Financial and Business Services employers were particularly likely to be aware of the legislation (84% and 79% respectively – statistically significantly higher than 74% overall). The lowest level of awareness was amongst Hotel and Restaurant employers (69% aware).
Awareness is consistent across all regions, with none statistically significantly higher or lower than the overall 74% figure.
High levels of awareness have not yet generally translated into any change in recruitment practice – just 1% of those aware of the legislation reported they had altered salaries of positions they recruit to. There were no changes made by 94% of those aware, although 5% were unsure if changes had been made or not.
Over half (58%) of the largest employers with 250 or more employees (who would be required to publish their gender pay gap data) had made no specific changes to their recruitment practices. Amongst these largest establishments, of those aware: (a) 5% had increased the transparency of their salaries or salary bands; (b) 5% altered the salaries of positions they recruit to; (c) 5% had recruited more women; (d) 4% had made changes to personnel on recruitment panels; (e) 4% had altered the language used in job adverts; (f) 2% had raised awareness generally. However, with the legislation relatively new it may be that more changes are planned as employers seek to understand their data in more depth. This may be an area to explore in subsequent EPS waves.
Recruitment of older workers
Moving on from how employers recruit, what they broadly look for, and actions they may have taken to widen their recruitment pool, the following sections examine who employers are recruiting, specifically looking at the recruitment of older workers, young people and leavers from the education system. With rises in retirement age, older workers represent an increasing proportion of the UK workforce (DWP 2017). As such it is helpful to understand the extent to which employers are recruiting older individuals compared to younger workers. Wider evidence suggests that the workplace experiences of older workers tends to differ from the rest of the workforce, individuals receive less training but have higher levels of job satisfaction, however business performance does not differ between those employing more or less older workers (ibid.). Several Scottish Government initiatives have offered older workers opportunities for training and access to support in their working lives. This includes Scottish Union Learning, which supports lifelong learning and skills development; the Workplace Equality Fund, which can be used to support older people who wish to extend their working lives; and redundancy support (PACE).
Around two in five (42%) employers who had recruited in the year preceding the study had recruited an older person aged 50 or over. This is a notable increase from the 31% who did so in 2016.
Employers who monitor the diversity of their applicants, use positive action, use blind recruitment, offer flexible posts and / or encourage a diverse range of applicants are all more likely to have recruited an older person than their counterparts who have not adopted these good recruitment practices. These approaches may therefore be helping to improve the diversity of the workforce in terms of age.
As shown in Figure 3.8, larger employers were almost twice as likely as smaller employers to have employed an older person (77% of those with 100+ employees, decreasing to around a third (34%) of those with 2-4 employees). Larger employers are more likely to have recruited more people and so should be more likely to have recruited those with any given characteristic.
Figure 3.8: Recruitment of those aged over 50
Base: Establishments which had recruited in past 12 months: 1,611 (2019); 2,470 (2016)
For base by size and sector see Table A.3.2
Private sector establishments were less likely to have recruited an older person than those in the public sector (41% and 50% respectively of those with vacancies). The proportion of public sector establishments that recuited an older person increased from 30% in 2016. However, employers in the Education sector (of which around half are in the public sector) who recruited are notably less likely to have recruited an older person with only 32% doing so. Construction is the only sector less likely to have employed someone aged 50 or older in 2018 than they were in 2016 (26% of those who recruited). In contrast those in the Health and Social Work sector were particularly likely to employ an older person (56% of those who recruited did so). Manufacturing employers were the most likely to have employed an older person in the last year, 57% of those who recruited did so.
The greatest geographical contrast in the proportion recruiting older workers is between Edinburgh and Lothians and West (35% and 53% of those who recruited).
Recruitment of young people
Youth employment rates in Scotland during the first quarter of 2019 (59.3%) were the highest they had been for over a decade, maintaining the recovery seen in 2015 (59.2%) following concerningly low youth employment in the years 2010 to 2014 (average 53.2%). The total number of young people in employment in the first quarter of 2019 was 2% higher than in the first quarter of 2016 (Scottish Government, 2019c).
Correspondingly, the youth unemployment rate had decreased from 16% in the first quarter of 2016 to 7% in the first quarter of 2019 (reflecting an absolute decrease in unemployment during the same period).
Demographically, Scotland has an ageing population, over the last ten years (1998 to 2018) the population aged 16-24 increased by 3%, whereas during the same period the 45-64 age group increased by 20% (National Records of Scotland 2019). As such the supply of younger workers is growing at a slower rate than older workers in the labour market.
Trends in the recruitment of young people
This year’s EPS found that while employers were still more likely to have recruited a young person under the age of 25 than a worker aged over 50, the proportion recruiting an over 50 has increased, whereas recruitment of young people has decreased since the last survey (2016). Three out of five employers (60%) who had recruited in the year preceding the study had recruited a young person aged under 25, a decrease compared to 2016 when 64% of those who had recruited had recruited a young person.
Among those who recruited in the 12 months preceding the 2019 EPS study, the proportion who only recruited those 25 or older increased from 35% in 2016 to 38% in 2019. Recruiting older workers does not make it any more or less likely though that employers will recruit a young person, 60% of both those who had recruited someone aged 50 or older and those who had not, also recruited a young person under 25.
Figure 3.9: Proportion of employers who had recruited a young person in the last 12 months, by size and sector
Base: Establishments which had recruited in past 12 months: 1,611 (2019); 2,470 (2016)
For base by size and sector see Table A.3.2
Regarding recruitment of under 25s, as in previous years, employers were almost twice as likely to have recruited at least one young person aged between 19 and 24 (50% had done so) than to have recruited at least one 16 to 18 year old (28%).
However, there has not been a statistically significant change in the proportion who recruited those aged 16 to 18 since 2016, whereas the proportion recruiting those aged 19 to 24, has decreased from 56% in 2016.
As explored in more detail below, decreases in the recruitment of young people are greatest amongst smaller employers, the public sector and the Construction sector.
Larger employers were more likely to have recruited a young person, 88% of those with 100+ employees had done so compared to 42% of those with 2-4 employees.
Compared to 2016, the smallest employers with under 10 employees were less likely to have recruited a young person in the preceding 12 months. Youth recruitment amongst those with between 2-4 employees had decreased by seven percentage points from 48% to 42%. Amongst those with 5-9 employees there was a decrease of nine percentage points in youth recruitment, from 61% in 2016 to 53% in 2019, with a particularly steep decrease in the recruitment of 19 to 24 year olds, from 50% to 38%.
Employers in the Hotels and Restaurant and Primary and Utilities sectors were particularly likely to have recruited a young person, with around three-quarters doing so (76% and 72%). The Hotel and Restaurant sector was particularly likely to recruit both those aged 16 to 18 (41% compared to 28% overall) and those aged 19 to 24 (67% compared to 50% overall), whilst those in Primary and Utilities were twice as likely as average to only hire 16 to 18 year olds (19% compared to 10% overall). Employers in the Wholesale and Retail sector were also particularly likely to recruit 16 to 18 year olds, 33% did so with 14% only recruiting from this age group.
Employers in the Construction and Business Services sectors had particularly low levels of youth recruitment. Compared to 2016, youth recruitment had decreased from 60% to 46% in the Construction sector, this was driven by a decrease in the hiring of 19 to 24 year olds (from 47% in 2016 to 32% in 2019). In the Business Services sector low rates of youth recruitment were mainly due to their low likelihood of hiring 16 to 18 year olds (15% compared to 28% overall).
By region, employers in Tayside were the least likely to have hired a young person, only 49% had done so (only 20% had hired a 16 to 18 year old) – see Table 3.2. Youth recruitment was most likely in the Borders, 75% had recruited a young person, driven by 63% recruiting someone aged 19 to 24. Highlands and the Forth Valley had notably high rates of recruitment for 16 to 18 year olds (35% and 43%).
Employers who consider work experience to be a ‘critical’ or ‘significant’ factor when recruiting were less likely to have hired a young person (57% compared to 69% of others). However, employers who invest in their workers through the provision of training and work experience were more likely than those who do not to have hired a young person in the preceding 12 months: 78% of those who have or offer Apprenticeships, 64% of those who offer work experience and 61% of those who provide training had recruited a young person.
Table 3.2: Recruitment of young people and those over 50 amongst those who had recruited, by region
|Row %s||Unwtd Base||Recruited any young person||Recruited any 16 – 18-year-old||Recruited any 19 -24-year-old||Recruited anyone aged over 50||Only recruited those aged 25 or older|
|Aberdeen & Aberdeenshire||197||%||62||28||50||43||36|
|Dumfries & Galloway||72||%||57||31||51||52||42|
|Edinburgh & Lothians||220||%||58||25||50||35||40|
|Highlands & Islands||246||%||61||35||48||41||38|
Base: Establishments recruiting in the last 12 months
Occupations young people are recruited to
When young people were recruited it was typically to fill ‘lower level’ roles. Around three-fifths (59%) of employers who recruited a young person within the last year hired them for a relatively low skilled occupational area; 28% elementary, 14% caring, leisure and other service, 13% sales and customer service, 4% process, plant and machine operatives. Smaller employers were particularly likely to have recruited for an elementary occupation (43% of those with 2-4 employees compared to 17% of those with 100 employees or more). The only notable change from 2016 is a decrease in the share recruited for sales and customer service occupations down from 22% to 13%.
One in ten employers (10%) who recruited a young person in the last year placed their most recent young recruit in a skilled trade occupation and around the same proportion (9%) in an administrative or secretarial occupation.
In total only 13% of employers who recruited a young person hired their most recent young worker for a relatively highly skilled role; 8% associate professional and technical, 4% professional and 1% as a manager, director or senior official.
There is considerable variation by sector, reflecting occupational structures. Employers in the Education sector were particularly likely to have hired a young person for a professional role, 15% had done so. Business Services employers and those in the Health and Social Work sector were particularly likely to have placed a young person in an administrative or secretarial role, (20% and 14% respectively, compared to the 9% overall average).
The Construction sector, which had seen a marked decrease in youth recruitment was most likely to have been hiring for skilled trade roles, with 57% filling this type of role compared to 10% average overall. Caring, leisure and other service occupations were particularly common occupations employers hired young people for in the Health and Social work (62%), Education (48%) and Arts (44%) sectors compared to 14% overall.
Recruitment channels used to recruit young people
As young people are more likely to lack experience of paid employment, and are less likely to have developed contacts in industry, the channels used to reach them are crucial to equality of opportunity. Employers were asked which recruitment methods they used for the last vacancy that resulted in the recruitment of a young person. This gives us a good picture of where the job-roles that are deemed suitable for young people are most likely to be advertised. However, we cannot tell from the data which recruitment method was successful in reaching the young person taken on.
The majority of employers who employed a young person had used word of mouth or personal recommendation (59%), with a quarter (24%) relying solely on this to reach potential candidates, both figures in-line with the proportions who did so in 2016. Many used their own social media channels (41%), or website (40%) to advertise the position, with an increase in the use of social media from 2016 when 28% used it. Overall 82% used at least one of these internal resources and 53% used only internal resources (in line with 51% in 2016) – meaning that they did not incur any external costs but may have limited their reach to those who were already aware of them.
Figure 3.10 Recruitment methods used to recruit last young personAround one in ten (8%) paid for a recruitment service to place adverts on the employers own website or social media channels, and one in five (20%) paid for some other form of recruitment service (e.g. press advertising). School, college, university jobs fairs or careers services were used by 14% of those who recruited a young person, and 7% accessed a Government recruitment service or scheme. Overall 39% used at least one of these external resources, which may have widened the chances of more young people seeing the opportunity.
Figure 3.10: Recruitment methods used to recruit last young person
Base: Establishments which had recruited a young person in previous 12 months: 1,096 (2019), 1,738 (2016).
There has been no statistically significant change from 2016 when 40% used external resources. A recruitment website was the most common type of external, paid-for recruitment service employers who recruited young people had used (9%, increasing to 14% amongst employers with 100 or more employees, and 21% of those in the Education sector), followed by a recruitment agency (5%, increasing to 9% of those with 100 or more employees, and 9% of those in Business Services, Manufacturing and Public Admin) and local press (4%, increasing to 7% of those with 100 or more employees).
Employers were asked specifically about the recruitment method(s) used on the last occasion they recruited a young person. As such, the figures presented in this section are not directly comparable with the data presented earlier around which recruitment channels employers had used in general over the past 12 months, the previous figures were also based on all establishments with vacancies regardless of whether they had recruitedOnly using internal resources was far more common in the recruitment of the most recent young person than it was as a general recruitment practice over the last year. This indicates young people may be at a particular disadvantage when looking for opportunities, and that employers are potentially restricting their choices. Added to this, around half of employers who had recruited a young person in the 12 months preceding the survey (47%) had used only a single channel (whether internal or external) to advertise the post most recently filled with a young person.
As shown in Figure 3.11, smaller employers were more likely to have only used internal resources to advertise the most recent position filled by a young person (60% of those with between 2-4 employees compared to 33% of those with 100 or more), and to have only used word of mouth (26% of those with between two and 49 employees compared to 5% of those with 100 or more).
Employers in Public Administration, Education and Health, and Social Work were more likely to have used external resources than the overall average (90%, 64% and 51% versus 39% respectively). On the other hand, those in Wholesale and Retail, and Hotels and Restaurants were more likely to have only used internal resources in recruiting their most recent young person.
Figure 3.11: Recruitment methods to recruit last young person, by size and sector
Base: Establishments which had recruited a young person in previous 12 months: 1,096 (2019), 1,738 (2016).
Financial Services base too low to show reliable data. For base by size and sector see Table A.3.3
Employers in Edinburgh and Lothians and Glasgow had the lowest proportions of employers using only internal resources when recruiting their most recent young person (45% and 43% respectively).
Higher skilled roles filled by young people were more likely to have had external resources used to advertise them than lower skilled roles. Among those employers whose most recent young recruit was for a professional role 70% had paid for or accessed other external resources in seeking candidates, including 34% who had used a paid for recruitment service. Likewise, 61% who recruited for an associate professional role had used external resources, with the same proportion (34%) using a paid for recruitment service. In comparison, just 30% of employers whose most recent young recruit was to a sales and customer service job and 22% of employers whose most recent young recruit was for an elementary occupation had used external resources (see Table 3.3).
Finally, only a minority of employers who recruited a young person in the 12 months preceding the study had used a Government scheme or service to do so (7%). Use of Government schemes or initiatives was also less common than in 2016 when 11% of those who recruited a young person accessed one. This reduction may in part be due to the decrease in youth unemployment, as reported earlier, with use of Jobcentre Plus recruitment services decreasing from 4% of those who recruited a young person in 2016 to 1% in 2019.
Table 3.3: Recruitment methods used to reach young people by role recruited, 2019
|Row %s||Unwtd. Base||Word of mouth / personal recommendations||Placed adverts on your website||Placed adverts on social media||Paid-for recruitment service||Educational careers services||Paid someone to advertise on website or social media||Government recruitment service|
|All role types||1,096||%||59||41||40||20||14||8||7|
|Caring, Leisure and Other||164||%||48||51||46||23||21||6||10|
Base: Establishments that took on their last young person into each job role
** Base size less than 25
Recruitment of education leavers
To further unpick establishments’ experience of recruiting young people, the survey also establishes the proportion of employers who have taken on an education leaver in the last 2-3 years (these could be of any age). As in previous years, employers were asked to focus on leavers from Scottish educational institutions.
In the two to three years preceding the study 30% of employers had recruited an employee to their first job after leaving school, college or university. One in five (20%) had recruited from a Scottish secondary school, 12% from a Scottish college and 11% from a Scottish university. Although the proportions who recruited from school or colleges in 2019 are in-line with 2016 and 2014, there has been a decrease in the proportion recruiting from university to 11% in 2019 from 14% in 2016 and 13% in 2014. As discussed in more detail below this change appears to have mainly been driven by a decrease in the recruitment of university leavers amongst employers who are in the Arts, Public Administration, Business Services, Manufacturing, Hotels and Restaurants sectors and / or who are smaller (with under 50 employees). This change warrants further investigation in order to meet the Scottish Government’s key performance indicator of 35% of employers recruiting young people directly from education by 2021.
Figure 3.12: Recruitment of education leavers, by size and sector
Base: All establishments: 2,652 (2019); 4,009 (2016)
For base by size and sector see Table A.1.1
The smallest employers with between 2-4 employees were half as likely as average to have recruited from school (9% compared to 20%), college (5% compared to 12%) or university (4% compared to 11%). Slightly larger employers with between 5-9 employees were also less likely than average to have recruited from university (7% compared to 11%) but were more likely than average to have recruited from school (23% compared to 20% overall).
As larger employers are more likely to hire all types of recruits (as they hire in greater numbers), they are more likely to have a range of job types requiring different levels of experience, qualifications and skills. Indeed employers with 100+ employees are around three times as likely (57%) as those with between 2 and 49 employees (18%) to have recruited from school, and six times as likely to have recruited from college or university (60% and 57% vs 10% and 9% respectively).
Compared to 2016, the largest differences were increases in the likelihood of those with 25 to 49 employees, or with 100 or more employees to have recruited a school leaver (increases of 10 and 8 percentage points respectively), and in the likelihood of those with 50 or more employees to have recruited a college leaver (an increase of 10 percentage points).
Employers in the Education sectors were most likely to employ education leavers, 56% had done so with 30% hiring a university leaver, 27% a school leaver and 25% a college leaver. Those in the Hotel and Restaurant sector were the next most likely to have recruited an education leaver, 37% had done so though these employers were more likely to have recruited a school leaver (29%), with 16% recruiting a college leaver and 13% recruiting a university leaver.
Employers in the Primary and Utilities sector were the least likely to have recruited an education leaver, this is due to particularly low likelihood of recruiting university leavers (only 2%). A low proportion of Construction and Wholesale and Retail employers also recruited university leavers (3% and 8% had done so), however these employers were particularly likely to have recruited school leavers (29% and 26%).
By region, overall over a third of employers in the Forth Valley (38%) and West (37%) had recruited an education leaver compared to only around a quarter in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire and Borders (25% and 24% respectively), however, there are further variations by type of education leaver:
- Employers in West (27%) were more likely – and employers in Edinburgh and Lothians (16%) were less likely than the overall average (20%) to have recruited a school leaver;
- Employers in Lanarkshire were more likely than those in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, Ayrshire, Highlands and Islands and Tayside to have recruited a college leaver (17% compared to 9% to 10%); and
- Employers in Edinburgh and Lothians, Glasgow, Forth Valley and West were more likely to have recruited university leavers (14% to 15%) compared to those in Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway and Fife (all 6%).
Table 3.4: Recruitment of education leavers by Scottish region, 2019
|Row %s||Unwtd. Base||Recruited any education leaver||Recruited any school leaver||Recruited any college leaver||Recruited any university leaver|
|Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire||313||%||25||18||9||9|
|Dumfries and Galloway||111||%||27||19||12||6|
|Edinburgh and Lothians||334||%||31||16||12||15|
|Highlands and Islands||432||%||30||22||10||11|
Base: All establishments
Preparedness for work of education leavers
A key issue for employers, education providers and policy-makers is whether individuals leaving education to join the workplace are deemed to be well-prepared for their job role. Overall, the majority of employers find their education leavers to be well prepared, and this level of preparedness increases with the level of educational attainment.
By type of leaver, 58% of those who had recruited a school leaver, 74% of those who had recruited a college leaver and 78% of those who had recruited a university leaver felt they were well prepared (see Figure 3.13). Employers were less positive about work preparedness than they were in 2016, the proportion of employers that rated each type of education leaver ‘poorly prepared’ or ‘very poorly prepared’ rose by around five percentage points for each type of leaver.
Figure 3.13: Preparedness of education leavers for work, 2019 in comparison with 2016
Base: Establishments which recruited education leavers in the 2-3 years prior to survey. (2019: School leavers 779, College leavers 538, University leavers 491. 2016: School leavers 1,052, College leavers 707, University leavers 827)
The most common reason for feeling education leavers were poorly prepared was a lack of experience of the working world/life experience or maturity, 21% of those who had recruited a school leaver, 12% of those who had recruited a college leaver and 9% of those who had recruited a university leaver reported this issue. Amongst those who had recruited school leavers almost as common a problem was a poor attitude, personality or a lack of motivation (for 16%), although this was less likely to be an issue for those who had recruited college or university leavers (given as a reason by only 6% and 5% respectively) it was still the second and third most common reason respectively among these groups. Similarly a lack of common sense was an issue for 6% of employers who had recruited school leavers but for only 2% to 3% of those who had recruited college or university leavers.
For school and college recruits (who were more likely to be thought poorly prepared) issues around general life experience and attitude were more prevalent than issues around their skills or competencies, whilst for university leavers a lack of work preparedness was as likely to be linked to issues with skills or competencies as general experience or attitude.
Compared to 2016 the only notable change is an increase in the proportion of employers who felt the university leavers they recruited lacked the specific skills or competencies they required (not those related to literacy or numeracy), which had increased from 5% in 2016 to 8% in 2019.
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