Poor writing skills are making it hard for employers to fill vacancies, a study by the National Commission for Further and Higher Education found.

The national employee skills survey found that four out of 10 vacancies were reported to be hard to fill. Clerical support workers, sales workers and craft workers are among the hardest to find.

The survey identified shortcomings in written communication as the main reason for vacancies not being filled (32.9 per cent), followed by lack of technical skills (32.1 per cent), poor problem-solving (30.9 per cent) and lacklustre teamwork (29.3 per cent).

The commission said this generally matched the skills considered as important by employers, namely oral communication (78.7 per cent), teamwork (78.6 per cent) proficiency in English (74.4 per cent) and customer handling (72.3 per cent).

Employers, the study found, responded to hard-to-fill vacancies by increasing the workload of other staff (61.5 per cent) or outsourcing work (27.7 per cent).

Employers frequently resort to hiring foreigners

In addition, 27.6 per cent of respondents reported difficulties in meeting customer service objectives and 27.3 per cent lost business or orders to competitors as a result of hard-to-fill vacancies.

Employers most frequently resort to hiring non-Maltese to occupy hard-to-fill vacancies. The second most used method to tackling the problem is increasing advertising and recruitment spending, followed by higher salaries for the vacancies on offer. The survey shows personal contacts and acquaintances are most useful for finding a job. Word-of-mouth recruitment is still the most used way of filling vacancies (20.9 per cent). This is followed by notifications of vacancies to JobsPlus (19.9 per cent) and social media notices (15.8 per cent), which pipped newspaper adverts.

Just under half the employers surveyed have taken to hiring foreigners over the past three years.

When it comes to termination of employment, voluntary resignation is the most common reason for leaving a job followed by termination during the probation period.

Employers found that planning and organisation skills were most lacking among their present employees, followed by customer handling skills and teamwork skills. A vast majority of employers (75.7 per cent) stated they did not allocate any annual training budget.

Over the past three years, 39.8 per cent of respondents had recruited staff without work experience directly on completion of their studies. Most employers (94.6 per cent) identified the need for more collaboration between education providers and employers. The reasons for not collaborating varied, the most common being lack of the necessary structures and employers lacking the necessary resources to undertake such cooperation.

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