Good accountants in short supply

And this lack of skilled staff will increase the ability of new recruits to demand higher wages, golden hellos and improved working conditions. Increasingly, companies are expected to turn to overseas to plug the gaps in the UK market.

The quarterly Recruitment Confidence Index, published on 25 January, shows 40% of firms believe that finding the right managerial and professional accounting staff over the next six months will present problems.

This is around a 30% rise on the same survey last March, although a similar result to surveys in the latter half of 2000. However, many companies still expect ‘moderate employment growth’ until June, suggesting the long predicted recession is not frightening off the accountancy sector. Some 26% of companies said they expected to recruit.

Professor of human resources management at Cranfield School of Management, Shaun Tyson, said he believed pay levels would rise.

‘People have said that in terms of pay they believe the demand will be higher,’ said Tyson, who formed part of the RCI’s research team.

He said this would apply to all sectors, including the youngest intakes where demand far exceeds supply.

‘I anticipate that graduate recruitment could be higher. Everybody wants to get to people. There is a smallish pool of people and increasingly more employers are fishing in it.’

Although firms have been able to keep pay rises at a low level largely because of the low inflation rate, currently 2%, this could be threatened by scarcity in the market.

Average wage rises across the private sector during 2000 stood at just over 4%. In the public sector it was a little over 3%.

Jackie Alexander, recruitment partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said the research reflected reality.

‘It’s definitely a buyers’ market. There a lot of jobs out there and people are very selective about what they accept,’ she said.

Although PwC does not offer golden hellos it does offer interest-free loans to graduate recruits to help pay off student loans and a ‘settling-in allowance’. She added that PwC ‘may well’ look overseas for recruits.

Ernst & Young said it tried to attract new recruits by making the career path within the company as attractive as possible.

‘People are looking for more than money. They are looking for career prospects and development opportunities,’ said Rayner Peett, an Ernst & Young spokesman.

Peett admitted that it was difficult to attract properly qualified people because of the range of skills needed, particularly in the business advice sector.


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