Companies across the UK are struggling to fill positions because there simply aren't enough properly skilled candidates available. A skills gap exists in almost every industry, be it IT, engineering, accounting or specialized secretarial roles. This gap may be specifically related to knowledge of that particular industry, but more often than not, the skills that are lacking are the most basic.

Skills Shortage
Today's employers are looking for far more than being able to read, write, follow instructions or demonstrate initiative. They're also looking for more than just academic qualifications, especially when often all the candidates applying for a particular job are likely to possess the same ones. Employers these days look to appoint the candidate they believe is most capable of doing the job, rather than those who on paper have the best knowledge of it. Along with good team working and communication skills, a grasp of basic IT skills and evidence of wanting to learn and gain new skills will come high up on an employer's requirements for prospective employees.

Assessing Your Skills
So before you start filling out your application form, it's worth considering whether you really have the skills needed. You should consider what skills you do have, those you need to brush up on, and those you need to learn from scratch before you start applying for jobs. You may just need to know how to navigate yourself around a computer and understand the latest software, you may need to gain a better understanding of databases or spreadsheets, or you may need to gain very specific skills in a particular application.

Employers may be struggling to find the right person for the job but they're still constantly receiving application letters and CVs from prospective candidates. So what can you do to help your potential employer realise that you have the skills and attributes they're looking for and make your application stand out from the rest?

Having the right academic qualifications or years of experience behind you is not enough to prove your ability to do the job. Getting some good vocational skills and qualifications can give you the edge over others.

Improving Your Skills
The Microsoft Office suite of applications has become the standard software used in most office environments. There are several applications within this suite that you can learn to master. For example, Microsoft Outlook is a tool for managing e-mail and contacts; Microsoft Excel allows you to create spreadsheets to store and manipulate data; and Microsoft Access is a database package enabling you to store and share large amounts of information.

Training courses in Microsoft Office applications are readily available either as online E-learning courses or by attending instructor-led Microsoft training courses. Following completion of such courses there is also the opportunity to obtain the Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) qualification, which provides proof of the user's competency in a range of Microsoft Office skills. Undertaking such training courses will ensure that you are fully equipped with the skills that today's employers are looking for.