Job Demands in 2021: Hiring What, Hiring Where, Hiring When

The saying goes, as one door closes, another will open. Whilst some industries have been hit hard by COVID-19, others have prospered. We want to help people bounce back by giving you the full picture of where the skill and role shortages are in different industries and areas of the nation.

The world of working has changed dramatically in the last decade. Rewind 20 years and the majority of people had a job for life;  most of our parents landed a job in their twenties and stayed in it for multiple decades. Today, things look very different.

Modern advancements and consumer trends mean job opportunities are always changing. We have less job security and are forced to adapt our skills to match demand.  If you worked for a cassette manufacturer back in 2002, for example, you would have been made redundant and those skills would now be obsolete.  

As if the market wasn’t already challenging, Covid-19 has certainly thrown an earth-sized spanner into the works. This spanner has come as a widespread pandemic that has been contagious in more than one way –  sending ricochets across all areas of industry as we know it. . With UK unemployment on the rise (rising to 1.72 million between September 2019 and December 2020) and certain industries being dramatically hit by shifts in both economy and social movement, the future of work seems bleak. 

Yet, amongst all this tragedy, it’s easy to forget that just as some areas of life have suffered more than others, some have in fact prospered.

Whether you’re an individual or a business, success is dependent on your ability to manoeuvre unexpected challenges and swiftly adapt to the demands of the market. This can also mean bouncing back when things don’t go to plan.

So what are those demands? Which doors have closed and which ones have opened? What does the playing field look like right now, after all the back and forth that defined last year and the beginning of this one? 

We want to help people bounce back, and to do so you need the full picture. So here are the key changes you need to know about.   

How badly has coronavirus affected the market?

Some sectors have suffered significantly; the hospitality and catering industry, for example, experiencing a loss of over 69.1% of jobs. Other seriously impacted industries include hospitality and leisure, aviation, high-street retail and food and drink suppliers.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. According to reports before Covid, a third of vacancies in the UK were considered hard to fill, predominantly due to a lack of skills, experience, or qualifications. A lot of those vacancy gaps still exist; of the top five professions with shortages, only two industries have seen a drop.

There are still vacancies out there. The key is pinpointing the opportunities, and ensuring you have the required skills and credentials.

Finding the gaps – most in-demand professions

Vacancy gaps occur for a variety of reasons: the job might require complex skills that few people have, or it could be socially undesirable and unenjoyable. In 2021, however, the gaps predominantly occurred because the pandemic drove up demand for certain products and services – and sectors don’t have the manpower to keep up.

According to employment trends, there are a wide variety of other occupations with vacancy gaps. The most in-demand jobs right now include:


Unsurprisingly, Nursing is currently the most in-demand occupation, growing nearly 30% year-over-year. 4.32% of all roles advertised on Glassdoor UK are looking for a registered nurse and, according to Linkedin – over 303,436 unique UK job postings were made between March and September 2020, as we navigate through the pandemic

But don’t expect the demand to drop off after COVID-19 – the need for this profession has always and continues to be driven by several factors, such as our ageing population.

But that might not be much use if you have no medical training. Hospitals give you the jeebies? Well, not all of these roles are based in hospitals. Organizations are looking for nurses to serve in long-term care facilities, schools, urgent care centres and more, listing the following required skills: patient advocacy, clinical research, time management. 

In geographic terms, the South East has the biggest shortages of nurses with the North West close behind and then the West Midlands.

Despite the demand, nursing comes top of the list of hard-to-fill (i.e. difficult to recruit for) vacancies, with applicant shortage, competition from other employers, lack of interest in these types of roles and lack of required skills cited as the main reasons.

Become a Janitor

There were 96,032 unique job postings for cleaners and domestics between March 2020 and Sep 2020. The majority of those were for bathroom cleaners and janitor staff, accounting for 2.35% of the current market. Despite many businesses being closed, those that can remain open need to address cleanliness and hygiene as a high priority to comply with government guidelines, meaning cleaning staff are in high demand.

Become a teaching assistant

Despite the closure of schools, teaching assistant openings are the second most prevalent on Glassdoor according to CPD. Having a thorough understanding of the welfare of children and young people is the most in-demand skill in childcare and education roles. It appeared in over 66,000 job postings for early years and education roles between March and September.

Get into sales and business development

Having strong sales skills is vital for navigating the competitive COVID-19 job market. Businesses were tasked with quickly adapting to an uncertain world and economy. While some jobs were lost, others that could help bottom lines and help businesses navigate through the pandemic were added. Hiring for these roles grew more than 45% between 2020 and 2019 and accounted for 197,197 job postings between March and September 2020.

Learn selling, biz dev and CRM tactics with online and on-site training

Get into marketing

Sales skills are listed as a requirement in 18% of job postings, and sales roles comprise a significant portion (20% of job postings) of the UK workforce. Business development is the fourth most in-demand skill in the UK, and selling techniques are 10th. Collectively, these skills appeared in 277,000 job postings between March and September 2020. Businesses will continue to have an insatiable appetite for staff who are talented in sales skills – especially in customer relationship management, prospecting, and objection-handling. 

Digital marketing representatives make up 1.97% of all open roles and marketing managers come in at 2%. With 85,000 businesses launching online stores since March 2020 and 75% of buyers and sellers preferring online stores, digital marketing appears to be a growth industry despite, or some may argue because of, the challenging economic times.

Become a nanny or home-tutor

Schools have been intermittently closed over the last twelve months and this has left many parents with the tough challenge of having to look after their children while also working. A third of local authorities have reduced free childcare placements in the UK, meaning early years are also being denied free child care. Therefore, private childcare providers have had a hiring surge and nanny’s now make up 1.79% of open roles. Private tutor jobs are also on the rise, with 1.48% of advertised roles on Glassdoor UK. When looking at specific companies who are hiring, the leader was a provider of private childcare care, Little Ones UK, at 1.50%, reflecting the need for private childcare during the pandemic and school and nursery closures.

Get into tech

There is a huge and still growing need for tech talent in the UK, particularly for Programmers and software developers. The demand for technological roles is growing by 7.3% each year, with expertise in Javascript, SQL and Python remaining extremely desirable. Agile Software Development and SQL (Programming Language) specifically are listed in the top 15 technical skills in the UK.

The Skills Network

Companies are now turning their recruitment focus towards workers who can understand, build, and manage internal systems, or improve their products and applications via technology, to help achieve business goals. These roles also saw a 13% salary hike between 2018 and 2019. The tech sector has been more shielded from the impact of COVID-19, with these jobs playing a key role in helping businesses make the shift to remote working and online processes.

Get into finance

With auditing and accounting being the number one and three most requested skills in job postings across the UK respectively, it is clear that financial roles are in high demand. There are now many opportunities arising throughout the accounting and finance recruitment market.

High-quality finance, accounting and investment analysts are increasingly needed to support companies to address their financial instability or underpin business growth. These financial roles and technical skills are vital for the in-house function of businesses across the country. But there are clear recruitment challenges − more than 60% of Chief Finance Officers say there is a shortage of financial skills in the UK. 

Need to upskill in this area? Browse online and on-site Finance Training courses from hundreds of training providers.

Get behind the wheel or join the frontline of eCommerce

Along with eCommerce, delivery services have consequently grown in demand. HGV/LGV (lorry) Drivers and commercial drivers are in the top 10 growing job roles, growing by 170%. If you have a good grasp of the wheel and eye on the road, this occupation might be worth considering. Another sector that has grown with eCommerce is logistics and warehouse work, up 76.5% from pre-Covid-19 levels to over 61,000 vacancies. 

Get ahead of the curb – Sectors on the rise

When considering where to look, students, graduates, and job seekers should be targeting their job search towards sectors on the rise, such as:

  • The construction industry, which is one of the UK’s fasting growing sectors.
  • Digital marketing, which is so in-demand that there is often a shortage of professionals to fill the work. Opportunities are growing, with a 9% increase in job listings since July 2020.
  • Employment law. Which is booming, as businesses across the UK seek legal advice over the ramifications of the furlough scheme.
  • Online learning and E-learning, which has become the new norm, following months of home learning for school and University students. Language Trainers, who provide foreign language lessons, took up 0.46% of adverts. In the first lockdown, 10% of Brits took an opportunity to learn a second language. Duolingo, a language learning app, showed an almost 300% increase in new users in March 2020 alone.
  • Gaming, which has increased by 46% at the start of the pandemic and software developers Jadex are seeking various professionals to meet the demands of users, with 0.46% of advertised jobs.

Given their rise in popularity, it is expected these sectors will provide the most vacancy opportunities during and beyond the pandemic.

CPD Standards

The skills gap

For those who looking for work during the pandemic, worthwhile skills to train in include:

  1. Auditing and accounting. With 60% of Chief Finance Officers claiming there is a shortage of financial skills in the UK.
  2. The ability to track Key Performance Indicators –  which tracks financial or employee performance, before using that information to adapt business objectives. This skill appears in over 160,000 job listings.
  3. Mental health and welfare support. With 1 in 6 experiencing weekly mental health issues, the ability to recognize and understand mental health is deemed a necessary skill for aspiring managers.
  4. Business development and selling techniques. With 18% of all vacancies in the UK requiring strong sales skills, the two appeared in over 277,000 UK job postings in March 2020.
The Skills Network

If you’ve found yourself looking for work, we recommend using the data above to train and make yourself qualified attractive to employers and sectors with job gaps.

Do you need to relocate?

UK opportunities differ depending on where you are located. According to Glassdoor, southern cities currently offer greater opportunities. London has the most open roles (27.85%,) while three northern cities (Leeds, Glasgow, and Manchester) supply just 34% of available jobs. For that reason, job seekers might be better offer relocating or commuting.

Fewer people are willing to relocate abroad, with 13% less willing to now than before the pandemic. This is because popular relocation countries – including the USA, France, and Italy – have significantly fewer job opportunities. Those still relocating have found opportunities in countries that better-managed coronavirus. So, if you’re considering working abroad, you should target your search to countries like – Japan, New Zealand, and Canada (currently the number 1 work destination globally).

As most of us are working from home, “virtual mobility” is on the rise. According to research, 57% willing to work remotely for an employer that isn’t present in their home country. Regardless of whether you’re willing to relocate, you shouldn’t limit your job search to the UK.

Final Thoughts

The global pandemic has affected a significant number of job sectors. With unemployment on the rise, you must adapt to match the requirements of in-demand vacancies. In doing so, you should pinpoint the job gaps and sectors on the rise and develop sought-after skills that will make us more employable. 

Opportunities vary across the country, and you may find better opportunities if you relocate. But with more jobs becoming remote, “virtual mobility” is on the rise, and you no longer need to limit your search to UK jobs.

This post was last modified on 30 April 2021


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