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Decline in applicant numbers raises alarm for recruiters

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 11 Aug 2022

Recruitment in the accountancy sector is hitting problems as the number of candidates for each vacancy is falling dramatically, indicating a growing skills shortage.

Recent data from the world’s largest network of job boards, Broadbean Technology, shows that application numbers in the accountancy sector have reached concerningly low levels. There was a 33% decline in candidates between May 2022 and June 2022, and a 36% drop in the number of applicants year on year between June 2021 and June 2022. 

There are fears that this decline could be harming the sector’s strength and stability, with reports of accounting firms being forced to turn away work due to lack of staff. Nearly half of UK accountancy firms admit to facing huge blows to their growth amid the skills shortages.

Alex Fourlis, Managing Director at Broadbean Technology, comments: “The UK’s skills crisis is continuing to be a focal issue for employers and our data shows that these shortages are impacting almost every business, across every sector.” He adds that, while staff shortages in sectors such as retail and logistics have hit the headlines, shortages of highly skilled candidates in fields such as accountancy are potentially more of a concern for the UK’s economic bounce back, as candidates for these positions take longer to train up and are harder to find.

Now is a critical time, he says. “It’s essential for businesses in the accountancy sector to rebuild and nurture dwindling talent pools, utilise innovative technology and maximise partnerships with external talent suppliers to find the undiscovered talent that is so desperately needed.”

Simon Gray, Head of Business, ICAEW, echoes the concerns: “Despite a consistent workload, practice firms have reported struggling to fulfil client demand due to a shortage of staff, an issue that appears more pronounced at the smaller end of the market. Indeed, there has been considerable movement in the sector with larger firms better placed to offer higher salaries.”

An important factor in improving the situation is ensuring there is a continuous pool of candidates attracted to the profession and a lead time to train them. ICAEW’s RISE programme serves to raise the profile of the profession specifically to young people from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Says Gray: “Initiatives like this to promote the multitude of opportunities a career as a chartered accountant offers are key. In addition, embracing technology to increase efficiency and boost productivity should not be overlooked.”

The other factor at play is an increase in demand for accountancy services, adds Gray. “The accountancy sector has arguably weathered the pandemic better than most. During challenging times, businesses seek the best advice – they turn to a chartered accountant.”

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