Britain’s most in-demand workers – and how to join them

Looking for a new job can be hard work, so wouldn’t it be better if employers were fighting over you? Pursuing a career in a shortage occupation can have plenty of advantages, with rising pay and more choice over where to work.

Of course, businesses won’t just hire anyone to fill the gap. They’re looking for workers with the right qualifications who can fit right in. So we’ve identified the courses you’d need to take to get a start in these in-demand careers.


Right now there are 34,000 vacancies in nursing in England alone according to the latest data. The Royal College of Nurses has long been warning that the recruitment situation is getting worse, with student numbers are down and the risk that EU nationals in the profession might leave as Brexit (perhaps) approaches.

So far the shortage hasn’t led to a pay boost, because of the government’s 1% cap on public sector salary rises. But there has probably never been an easier time to break into healthcare.

What qualifications do you need? You need a nursing degree, although you can now study for it on the job as an apprentice. Many nurses start out in support roles, such as a healthcare assistant, which may require a BTEC or NVQ in healthcare.


Demand for IT workers is ensuring that it remains one of the most attractive sectors to work in. Last year, vacancies rose by 22%, and that’s keeping salaries high – the average 1.9% increase in pay last year was the largest in any sector, according to the Robert Half Salary Guide.

A recent survey of industry leaders across the world found a consensus prediction of growth being  driven by new technologies from artificial intelligence to virtual reality. So the buoyant IT job market looks here to stay.

What qualifications do you need? Although many workers at the upper reaches of the career ladder will have advanced degrees, you can break into the profession in a role such as an IT support technician with a BTEC in computing or IT.


Hotels and restaurants fear they could face a staff shortage crisis in the wake of a hard Brexit, since so much of the industry has been staffed by migrants from the EU. The findings of a nationwide study involving hospitality business owners and managers across the UK revealed that 97% are expecting to experience a shortage of labour as a result of hard Brexit.

But even if EU workers stay in the UK, the BHA forecasts a further 500,000 jobs being created in the industry over the next five years – and that means training a lot more British workers for the job.

What qualifications do you need? Some staff learn on the job, but if you want to get ahead you can take college courses that will prepare you for careers in everything from cooking and patisserie to hotel management.


There is a projected shortfall of 1.8 million engineers in Britain by 2025, according to EngineeringUK, which was set up to promote careers in the industry. That’s on top of the 5.5 million people who already work in the sector.

“Engineering is a growth industry that has the potential to continue to drive productivity in the UK,” says Paul Jackson, chief executive of EngineeringUK. The average engineer salary in 2018, was reported to be over £47,000.

What qualifications do you need?To break into the industry as an engineering technician, you first need relevant level 3 qualifications, like maths and physics A-levels or a BTEC in engineering. Then you can study an advanced apprenticeship, HND or foundation degree.  


With pupil numbers rising and trainees falling, many schools are desperate for teachers. According to the National Audit Office, one in ten vacancies in schools are unfilled, while half of jobs are being taken by someone without the required expertise.

Pay has been held back by the public sector cap, but you can get a bursary of up to £26,000 to fund your training if you’re teaching in a shortage subject.

What qualifications do you need? Teachers are usually expected to have a degree in their subject. But starting as a teaching assistant is an increasingly popular route and having an NVQ in supporting and teaching in schools can help.