The Edge Foundation has announced that “skills shortages are severely impacting on England’s biggest employer, the NHS, with one in eleven posts unfilled.”

In its latest Skills Shortages Bulletin, the education charity reported that there are 41,000 nurse vacancies alone, but also problems in medicine, adult social care and particularly in mental health.

It also found that numbers of nurse undergraduates dropped by 4% last year, and predicted the shortage of nurses alone will reach 70,000 within five years if action isn’t taken.

Furthermore, the report exposes the severity of skills shortages across the wider UK economy with over two-thirds (68%) of UK employers saying they have ‘struggled to find workers with the skills they need’ in the previous year.

Edge’s director of policy and research, Olly Newton, commented that by bringing together analysis from across organisations and sectors, “we can see this is a perfect storm.”

He also said that the “fact that employers struggle to recruit because candidates don’t have the skills they need, shows the depth of the schism between education policy and industrial strategy.

More data from the report showed that 92% of companies say soft skills matter as much or more than hard skills, that a third of the working age population have few or no qualifications and that 70.2% of the jobs most at risk are currently held by women.

Newton continued, ‘The so-called ‘soft skills’ that people need to secure employment, should be called ‘critical skills’ because these are the skills, behaviours and aptitudes we need in the workplace now and to adapt to the jobs of the future. It is women, younger people and those with lower levels of skills-who are most vulnerable to being replaced by computer programs, algorithms or robots. We should be mapping our curriculum and life-long learning offer to the skills we need for 21st century jobs, not to the 19th century notion that exam grades are the only measure of talent and ability.’

The bulletin is the fifth in a series of reports by the Edge Foundation which collects the most current data and analysis on skills shortages in the UK.