Fire & Security Jobs educates market on UK skills shortage

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Brett Ennals, Fire & Security Jobs CEO.

One of the key exhibitors at IFSEC International this year didn’t have a stand full top notch, state-of-the-art technology. This exhibitor’s focus was on something a little more scarce in this technology-saturated market – skills.

Fire & Security Jobs, one of the fire and security industry’s top recruitment firms, used the unique networking platform that IFSEC provides to educate the market on the UK’s lack of skilled workers. According to Brett Ennals, CEO, spreading the word about what Deloitte have coined ‘the talent paradox’ is vital for the future of the market.

According to a June 2014 report on jobs by KPMG/REC, candidate availability is at its lowest point in 17 years, and 1 in 5 employers who are facing talent shortages at present say that this is having a high impact on their ability to meet client’s needs. Ennals, in is pitch to visitors to his IFSEC stand, also pointed out that while demand for engineers is growing the UK is simply not producing enough to keep up with demand. Roughly 87k level 4 engineers are required per year, and yet the UK is only producing around 51k.

Speaking about just what kind of challenge this creates when it comes to recruiting Ennals said, “The biggest challenge we all face is the current skills shortage – and that is only going to get worse as the demise of the traditional craft apprenticeship, served by myself and many others, has left the UK with a massive skills gap. Candidate availability is at its lowest point for 17 years and although there is a big push on apprenticeships the UK is only producing 24K level 3 apprentice engineers against a demand of 70K per annum. The top two jobs that employers are struggling to fill in the UK are the skilled trades and engineers.”

85% of employers now do not offer apprenticeships according to the UKCES Employer Perspectives Survey.

So how do you go about recruiting for an industry with such a shortage of skills?

Fire and security recruitment is our raison d’être,” said Ennals. “We collectively have worked ‘hands on’ in the industry for over 50 years. It is where our experience lies. Recruiting fire and security personnel is a highly specialised skill because you need to know and understand the current issues facing the industry such as the shortage in certain skills, the latest developments in technology and changes in legislation. It takes years of experience to identify who has the appropriate skill set for our clients and see who can be potentially be retained to work in fire and security.”

Ennals sites the team’s experience in the industry as the main ‘tool’ at the company’s disposal, saying that this in depth knowledge enables it to thoroughly qualify the candidate to the client’s brief rather than just CV matching. Fire & Security Jobs aligned itself with the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) as soon as it was established and has participated in its training programmes to ensure delivery of the highest standard of service. The recruiters have also just completed the REC compliance test and achieved a 100% pass mark, and it is ISO9001 Quality management and ISO27001 information security accredited.

As well as filling gaps created by skills shortages, recruiters also have to keep pace with an evolving market. Things are progressing rapidly towards IP based systems at the moment, and Ennals said that this means engineers will have to increase their knowledge to the same level as an IT engineer.

“The downside of this will be increased competition from IT engineers and companies to move into this space,” he added. “In addition to this, as competition between service businesses increases, remote diagnostics will become the norm, enabling the service provider to send the right component to enable a first time fix. Over the next few years I believe we will see two distinct levels of engineer emerge, one who can diagnose faults either on site or remotely and the other a semi-skilled or trainee engineer who will visit sites to swap components.”

Sales management roles tend to attract the most interest according to Ennals, however, engineering roles generate the most volume of work for the company. Targeting the right people for any role is a core aspect of successful recruitment, and Ennals and his team take this very seriously.

He said, “We utilise our experience and ensure we fully understand the roles we’re working with. This enables us to go to market very quickly and identify the right candidates. Our own extensive database and network yields the most results – we rarely need to utilise third party databases. We also have a great deal of success identifying and presenting the rising star, rather than just CV matching. We see past the words and identify candidates that will add value to our clients.”

But just what makes the way Fire & Security Jobs work so unique?

“We fully understand the roles; there is no substitute for experience,” Lannon explained. “Being at the wrong end of a screwdriver at 3am or having to hit your numbers month on month is the pressure most of the candidates endure and we understand it. We don’t just pair the person’s CV to the job description, we look beyond the CV and ask how suitable the candidate is to the client’s work environment, as each work setting has its own unique demands – whether it be a bank or bakery. We also have in depth knowledge of the different sales routes to markets and this helps us sort the wheat from the chaff when looking at CVs. This, coupled with full ownership of the recruitment process and exceptional service levels, differentiates us from our competition.”



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