I recently read an article about skill shortages in the UK energy sector due to labour immobility. The mobility of labour refers to the ability of workers to change from one job to another, both geographically and occupationally. A mismatch is skills and location between employers and potential workers can give rise to labour immobility. The article stated that around 29% of employers in the gas and electricity industries reported unfilled job vacancies compared to the average of 18% across all other industries. So what policies can be implemented by both the government and businesses to tackle labour immobility?
To reduce labour immobility, the government could invest in training schemes for the unemployed to boost the human capital in the energy sector and equip them with skills that can be transferred from occupation to another. However, this is a lengthy process as there will be an inevitable implementation lag for these unemployed people to fully gain the new skills. Furthermore, this is a costly process so the government must consider the opportunity cost of what the money could be spent on, for example investments into technology for the energy sector to reduce the need for human capital.
Another method the government could use to tackle labour immobility is to invest into infrastructure that would allow workers with particular skills to easily move/travel to areas with high demand for workers with these skills. An example of this would be to invest in transport like high speed trains into London from various places in the UK. This would allow workers to easily commute long distances and tackle the issue of geographical immobility of labour. However this depends upon whether people are actually willing to travel these long distances for jobs better suited for their skills as otherwise this would be a waste of government spending.
The opportunity cost of improved transport links between various places in the UK could be to use the money to increase the quantity and quality of rented accommodations in employment hotspots like London so that more workers can live in these areas. This could be done by building more council homes. However, this is also an expensive option and it may be difficult to implement in London due to already high congestion and overcrowding in the city.
On the other hand, the energy sector must not just rely on the government to reduce labour immobility as businesses can also implement their own policies. An example of this might be to increase opportunities for apprenticeships, targeted at younger people, to increase the quantity of labour with transferrable skills in the long run. It is known that the energy sector is characterised by an ageing workforce so this policy would be ideal in bringing in a younger workforce to replace these older workers in the near future. However, this depends upon whether there will be enough young people willing to apply for these apprenticeships in the energy sector . This can be helped by creating information campaigns targeted at students, who are unsure of which career path to pursue, to show them the benefits of working in the energy sector.