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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Skills deficit leading to vacant roles in third sector


Organisations need to increase training if they are to fill vacancies

A doubling of vacant roles in the voluntary sector over the last decade is being blamed on a skills shortage.

Think tank Pro Bono Economics has published research revealing that proportion of vacant posts in the sector increased from 2.6% in 2011 to around 5% in 2022.

Many roles are being described as “hard to fill”, the report says, where charities struggling to fill certain vacancies were seeing a knock-on effect in delivering services.

Some 57% of vacancies in the sector are now defined as hard to fill, states the report.  

“That raises a real red flag, not just for the community organisations and charities involved but for the people that they serve, because hard-to-fill vacancies damage social sector organisations’ ability to operate effectively.”

Vacancies, where candidates lack the right skill set for the role, have risen from 13% of vacancies in 2011 to 38% in 2022.

Traditionally the private sector had the most problems filling vacancies a decade ago, but it has been overtaken by the social sector.

The report says that as of 2022, the social sector had the greatest proportion of vacancies due to skill shortages, at 38%, with the public and private sectors following at 37% and 36% respectively. 

In 2013, the same category of vacancies in the private sector stood at 25% while it was 13% in the social sector.

The report says: “If this trend continues, the social sector is likely to lose a progressively greater number of prospective skilled candidates to the private sector.

“Worryingly, more of the current skilled workforce in the sector may also be tempted by attractive offerings from the private sector in the future. 

“This will have escalating knock-on consequences for the millions of vulnerable people served by these very skills.”

The report says the social sector has been cutting back on training, with spending falling by 25 per cent for each employee since 2011.

Cost was a barrier to accessing leadership training the research found with 93% of the charities surveyed.

The report stated: “Just 52% of smaller charities have a dedicated training budget compared to 86% of larger charities.

“The use of short-term fixed contracts, necessitated by the uncertain nature of contract funding, in the sector is also likely to play a role, as it disincentivises organisations from investing for the long-term in their employees.

“It’s also likely that time availability is another barrier, which particularly effects small charities, as demand for charitable services remains elevated.”

Goodmoves, the third sector jobs portal, has hundreds of available jobs for those interested in working in social care or the wider sector.



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Simon Knowles
3 months ago

A timely report that proves investment in personal development is one of the charity sector's priorities. Even large charities pay scant attention to training but without it staff remain static, under-developed and demoralised. The direct correlation between recruitment and training can't be underestimated. We as a sector need to get wise to this.