New report looks at skills shortages in the Cambridge region's labour pool

To help inform policy discussions about developing skills in Cambridge and Peterborough, researchers from RAND Europe examined skills shortages in the regional labour pool. They specifically examined four sectors: life sciences, information and communications, health and social work, and construction.

RAND's report, Skills demand in the Cambridge area: Attracting and retaining skills, published today, is summarised here:

Cambridge is a highly prosperous area with considerable job growth, as such there is a need to assess and understand the skills local labour markets need and where there are skills lacking.

With this in mind, Cambridge Ahead and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority asked RAND Europe to conduct a study examining the evidence on skills shortages in the regional labour pool and assess the skills demand from the perspective of businesses. The study focused on four sectors particularly relevant to the region: life sciences, information and communications, health and social work, and construction.

The report analyses the results of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills' employer skills survey and whenever possible it compares situations between sectors, occupations and areas in the Cambridge region with the rest of England. Although the data are the latest available, issues affecting the changing political and socio-economic context, such as Brexit, should be taken into consideration when interpreting the results.


  • Two of the priority sectors for the Cambridge area—life sciences and information and communications—experience a higher rate of vacancies and skills shortages than in other parts of England. Fifty-three per cent of the life science sector establishments reported having available vacancies, compared with 27 per cent nationally. Across the analysed sectors, information and communications has the highest share of skill shortages—44 per cent—11 percentage points higher than the rest of England.
  • The share of hard-to-fill vacancies for professionals in the Cambridge region is much higher than nationally. In all analysed sectors, excluding construction, over half of hard-to-fill vacancies were professional positions.
  • There is also a shortage of low-level skill jobs. Employers in the Cambridge region report a higher unmet demand for low-level skill occupations than the rest of England.
  • Difficulty in meeting local demand was identified as predominantly the result of the low number of appropriately skilled applicants. The information and communications and life sciences sectors particularly felt this.


  • It is essential to address the challenge to maintain the supply of highly qualified workers as well as ensuring there is an adequate supply of local low- and medium-skilled workers matching the demands of businesses.
  • The report's findings show the main difficulty in filling much-needed vacancies is the low number of applications with the required skills. At present, employers in the Cambridge region do not provide the same amount of training as businesses in the rest of England. A potential solution would be for employers to provide more training to upskill the local workforce.
  • In order to gain a better understanding of the specific issues related to skills demand in the local area, further research is needed, such as surveying a broader range of local businesses and focusing on more specific industry sectors.
  • Further information could be gained by investigating how the devolution deal for the Cambridge area could potentially encourage new skills initiatives and funding to deal with the skills demand.

Read the Project Overview »

Download the Report »

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