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Graduate labour market update: NHS staffing and AI at work

September 2023

Jisc's head of labour market intelligence, Charlie Ball, highlights reports on the NHS staffing plan, AI in the workplace, and a notable decline in adult education

The total number of online job adverts fell by 1% on 25 August 2023 compared with the previous week, and was 7% below the level of the equivalent period last year, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows.

The number of employers proposing redundancies fell by 9% compared to the previous fortnight, but the volume of proposed redundancies was up 50%.

Some 9% of businesses experienced difficulties recruiting employees in July 2023 - this is broadly stable with June 2023, but has slowly fallen from the 11% reported in March 2023. This, however, increases to 25% for businesses with more than nine employees. Recruitment difficulties at graduate employers seem to be down on earlier in the year though and the persistent difficulties are more in the service sector.

Notably, London has a much lower level of recruitment difficulty than the rest of the country - with 19.8% of businesses experiencing difficulty, it is the only region below 23%.

Meanwhile, 5% of businesses increased headcount in July, 6% reduced it, and the majority stayed the same. Accommodation and food service and human health and social work (13% and 12.1% respectively) were most likely to see staffing fall. Accommodation and food service (again) and manufacturing, at 10.3% and 8.5% of businesses, were most likely to see staffing increase. Elsewhere, 90.4% of education employers saw no change in headcount - good news as long as you don't think this sector needs more staff!

In the coming month, 18.4% of businesses expected to increase headcount against 8.4% expecting to decrease it.

61% of respondents answered that a significant portion of their company was actively using generative AI at work.

The Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) has released its latest Labour Market Tracker. This uses data from Lightcast:

  • There were 189,888 new job postings in the week of 7 to 13 August 2023. The annual August slowdown has been less severe this year than in 2022, with 28.8% more new jobs on the market than last year, and follows a gradual ticking up of vacancies in July.
  • No region saw a decline in job adverts in the week of 7-13 August 2023 as compared to the previous week.
  • The number of active postings in the week of 7 to 13 August 2023 was more than 2.3 million - significantly higher than the year before as many roles continue to take longer to fill.
  • Scotland is the outlier with postings significantly down on a year ago.
  • REC is reporting nearly 82,000 active postings in social care and over 73,000 in nursing.

How people are using AI at work

Capterra have examined the use of generative AI in the workplace. As many as 61% of respondents answered that a significant portion of their company was actively using generative AI at work. Another 36% responded that some people were using the technology in their company, but that there was also a significant proportion that was not.

The vast majority (93%) of respondents said they had informed their company that they were using generative AI tools. The three most frequent uses for generative AI were:

  • Text editing (41%)
  • Text creation (40%)
  • Analytics and reporting (40%).

The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) have examined NHS England's new healthcare plan. This is highly relevant as the NHS is the country's largest graduate recruiter. The plan aims to increase the number of staff employed by the English NHS from around 1.5 million in 2021/22 to between 2.3 and 2.4 million in 2036/37.

Some 49% of public sector workers in England will work for the NHS in 2036/37, compared with 38% in 2021/22 and 29% in 2009/10. In total 9% of all workers in England will work for the NHS, compared with 6% in 2021/22 and 2009/10.

Adult education sees decline in participation

The County Councils Network have found that the number of adults taking part in adult education, training, traineeships and apprenticeships in county areas last year dropped by almost 200,000 people - a fall of 19% - compared to 2018:

  • 20,000 fewer people are taking part in apprenticeships in 2022 compared to 2017.
  • For classroom-based adult education and skills, there has been a 21% decline in participation over the last five years, with 80,000 fewer people taking part in county areas in 2022 compared to 2017. Community learning has seen the biggest decline - a drop of 42% or 83,000 people over the period.
  • In total, participation in adult education and skills across England's counties has declined by 19% between 2017 and 2022, with 185,000 fewer people taking part in 2022 compared to 2017.
  • The Network has consequently called for greater powers over apprenticeships and adult learning to arrest the decline.

Job postings mentioning remote or hybrid work terms have decreased over the past three months, suggesting that employers are becoming less accommodating.

Indeed have a new round of reporting on their vacancy data. Job postings mentioning remote or hybrid work terms have decreased from 16.3% to 14.6% over the past three months, suggesting that employers are becoming less accommodating of worker preferences regarding remote work options.

Employment in Ireland was up 0.7 percentage points on this time last year to 74.2% according to the latest Irish Labour Force survey:

  • This was primarily driven by a rise in the participation of older workers.
  • Average hours worked has fallen slightly from 36.3 per week last year to 35.7 this year.
  • Changes in broad occupational groups in Ireland look quite similar to those in the UK.
  • Like the UK, growth in Ireland is driven strongly by an increase in professional-level (graduate) jobs, groups 1 to 3 in the chart below. Where Ireland and the UK differ sharply is in the large increase in skilled trade employment in Ireland over this time period and the fall in care work.
Employment,Change in thousands
1 Managers directors and senior officials,10
2 Professional,32.8
3 Associate professional and technical,25
4 Administrative and secretarial,2.5
5 Skilled trades,15.7
6 Caring leisure and other services,-2.9
7 Sales and customer services,4
8 Process plant and machine operatives,-5
9 Elementary,9.2

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