The job vacancies that Spain constantly struggles to fill

In a country with persistently high unemployment, there is a dire need for digital experts but also for mechanics, crane operators and ham carvers

Ham carvers are highly sought after in Spain. Pictured, the specialist Raquel Acosta.
Ham carvers are highly sought after in Spain. Pictured, the specialist Raquel Acosta.Getty Images
Carmen Sánchez-Silva

The Spanish labor market is ill-equipped to cover all its bases. While the unemployment rate is at 13.8%, there are also vacancies that go unfilled due to a lack of qualified professionals. This failure to match candidates to jobs was highlighted by 41% of the thousand Spanish executives surveyed by staffing company ManpowerGroup, and it is the highest figure seen in the last decade. This is not, however, a situation peculiar to Spain. The same problem prevails all over the world; more than half of the 14,000 executives surveyed on a global scale by ManpowerGroup said they had their work cut out for them finding appropriately skilled staff, particularly for digital transformation jobs, but in other areas too.

“We need specialists in artificial intelligence, application developers, customer management experts, and people who have gone through vocational training, who are currently as hard to come by as technological staff,” says Javier Blasco, director of the Adecco Group Institute, which is part of the human resources and temporary staffing firm Adecco Group. “It happens with warehouse workers, forklift operators and ham carvers. There are a lot of jobs with a high demand but very low supply.“

The construction sector is short on specialists in wall masonry and ironworks, as well as crane and other machine operators, according to Blasco. And in the industrial sector there is demand for forklift drivers, welders, milling machine operators and specialists in electromechanics. The same applies in the food sector, with skilled workers needed in food handling, carving and to perform various slaughterhouse duties. “These are well-paid workers because their position requires great physical effort and subjects them to thermal stress,” explains Blasco.

Nobody studies blockchain or digital marketing. They either do a master’s degree or take a six-month boot camp course
Javier Blasco, Adecco Group Institute

According to the experts, anyone specializing in these fields will have no trouble finding employment. In general, workers emerging from vocational training can expect an annual gross salary of between €25,000 and €35,000, although those with the most sought-after skills will be on €40,000.

The sources consulted for this story all agree that in 2019, for the first time, there was more demand for professionals who have undergone vocational training than for university graduates. “They have better employment prospects and even better pay, given that many university students do not work in jobs related to their degree,” says Andreu Cruañas, president of the temporary staffing company Asempleo.

At Adecco, 42% of job offers required vocational training compared to 38.5% requiring a university degree. At the employment website Infojobs, which processes three million job offers annually, a quarter of its vacancies require vocational training while only 14% require a university degree. According to Neus Margalló, a data and research analyst at Infojobs, more than 40% of the ads are aimed at unskilled workers or those with no more than basic qualifications.

Although the future lies in digital technology, Spanish companies are still not hiring many experts in that field. Of the 22.5 million contracts signed in 2019, computer technicians and programmers did not account for even 1%, nor do they figure among the fastest-growing hirings.

Experts note there is little correlation between the education system and the demands of the labor market

The contracts showing the greatest growth rate are actors (28%), technicians in workplace hazard prevention (27%), waste sorters (23%), journalists (19.6%), crane and machinery operators (19.4%), emergency health workers (18.9%), slaughterhouse staff (18.5%) and delivery workers or messengers (15.9%). The demand for computer scientists rose last year by 6% from 2018, according to data from Spain’s State Public Employment Service (SEPE).

A complaint voiced repeatedly by both entrepreneurs and human resources professionals in recent years is the lack of digital expertise. All sectors are crying out for it, it is not confined to technology firms alone. According to Infojobs, vacancies in general attract an average of 38 applicants each while vacancies in the realm of computer science struggle to attract 10.

The vacancies that are hardest to fill and have no unemployment rate include engineers, cyber-security experts, network administrators, programmers in the Python language and big data, and experts in robotics, artificial intelligence, 5G wireless technology and augmented reality. These workers are on high salaries, according to Blasco, earning between €50,000 and €60,000 per year. There is also high demand for social media programmers, digital analysts and customer experience specialists.

“You can’t find people with these skills – there are very few of them around as there are no degrees for these specialties,” Blasco says. “Nobody studies blockchain or digital marketing. They either do a master’s degree or take a six-month boot camp course.”

Blasco says that it typically takes the government two years to react to an extreme lack of candidates by proposing training courses, but that by the time these are up and running, demand has often tailed off. According to Cruañas, there is little correlation between the education system and the demands of the labor market, a problem that can be seen in the field of big data analysis.

The start-up response

That is why start-ups such as Jobbatical – a company that headhunts technology experts all over the world – have taken off in Spain. According to the firm’s founder, Karoli Hindriks, Spain and Germany have the highest technological growth rates in Europe. Jobbatical deals mainly with software engineers, devOps engineers, UX / UI designers and data scientists, experts whose salaries range between €35,000 and €65,000 a year, depending on experience.

Another start-up, Valencia-based Jeff, offers in-house laundry and hairdressing services, and has set itself a target of hiring 500 employees in 2020, doubling its workforce to accommodate its expansion. It needs frontend and backend developers, product designers and data scientist developers as well as 150 consultants for its sales team – because specialized sales people are also hard to find, according to Margalló.

Quick training

Juanjo Amorín, head of the Edix digital school that belongs to the Proeduca group, says he wants to reinvent vocational training, considered one of the weakest links in Spain’s education system. The school offers 10-month online training courses that cost €1,000 – a price that will rise on February 27 to €2,500 – with guaranteed six-month internships in companies as well as guaranteed jobs for the digital employee. It has set up courses for new professions that are in high demand in the world of business and which can boast a zero unemployment rate, according to Amorín. The range of jobs the students could go on to include digital geriatric assistant, customer service positions, data management, database cleaning, complex data visualization and digital sales with salaries ranging between €1,500 and €3,000 a month.

English version by Heather Galloway.

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