There is one issue that comes up all the time when I talk to business people: it is labour. Or to be more precise, the lack of labour.

The market for skills is incredibly ‘hot’ at the moment, in all sectors, with high demand for employees at all levels. As the economy bounces back from the pandemic and businesses seek staff to drive their growth, the crisis in recruitment is acting as a handbrake on their ambitions.

The Office for National Statistics reported record job vacancies in September and raised concerns that the high demand would affect business growth and fuel wage inflation.

As well as the shallow pool of potential recruits, the jobs market is also typified by greater volatility, with more people changing jobs more frequently.

That is reflected in ACCA’s recent research which revealed that thousands of UK accountants and finance professionals moved jobs in the last 12 months. That is, at least, one indication that careers in finance are resilient, and qualified people remain in demand even during a global health and economic emergency.

Data from LinkedIn reveals that 18% of our members and students in the UK had changed their profile to show a new employer over the year. That is especially true here in Wales where ACCA’s careers site shows that Cardiff is a hotspot for hiring activity.

Qualified and trainee finance professionals continue to be in high demand and are paid well for their skills, but we need to ensure that the skills they possess are relevant. Individuals as well as employers need to identify the skills they need right now and in the future. That is key to long-term career and business success.

That is the challenge that faces finance professionals now. It isn’t about the skills they have today. It is about the skills they have to offer in five, 10 or even 20 years, as technology changes and the world changes with it, and the growing insistence on sustainability becomes the key priority for business and society.

Building on ACCA’s global research over the past two years, as well as a survey of over 2,000 finance professionals across the world, our new report ‘Professional Accountants at the Heart of Sustainable Organisations’ the drivers of change shaping business as we look ahead, and the skills that finance professionals will need.

Clearly technology will have a huge impact on the profession, and that has a knock-on effect on the way people work, and on what the workplace will look like. Crucially, it is also about changes in the skills and aptitudes which employers will demand.

That’s true of accountancy just like it is in any other profession. Change in the future isn’t just about remote working work or redesigned office spaces. It is more fundamental and it’s about developing the right capabilities. That seems daunting, but change also presents great opportunities for individuals who are ready to embrace the new skills which modern business needs. Above all, this means recognising that the sustainability agenda is emerging as a powerful force in society and business.

Now and in the decades ahead, professional accountants can serve as champions and experts in the arena of sustainable business. They’ll be essential in driving positive business change and supporting economies and organisations across the world to build back better. They will promote the strong governance and the sustainable financial development of organisations. They will lead on the critical challenges facing businesses, such as responding to climate change or championing the environmental, social and governance agenda. They’ll use their skills and ethical and professional judgement to act in the public interest, helping to create new opportunities for organisations in all sectors across the world, enriching society at large.

ACCA has responded by launching a Careers Navigator tool which helps members and students plot their career paths in this new landscape, right from junior levels to senior roles.

We aim to help students and members to grow into future roles by identifying exactly which capabilities are required at every level and helping them to map their own skills and the steps they need to take to gain a competitive edge and to achieve the next goal. The Career Navigator also offers links to current vacancies on the ACCA Careers site, supporting employers to source new staff and finance professionals looking for a new role.

With the current skills challenges facing Wales and the UK in general, it’s more important than ever for organisations like ours to partner with accountants and finance professionals to help them to direct their own career journeys. There’s also a real opportunity for us to support employers with workforce planning by helping them to think ahead on skills and development so they have the capabilities in their teams that they need to succeed, and to help them to fill vacancies. Forward-looking organisations will always look to develop talent and skills in their workforce and ambitious individuals will always be looking at opportunities to learn new skills.

However, Governments (Welsh and UK) also have a part to play in ensuring that where businesses or individuals need guidance or funding to develop skills, at all levels of an organisation, this is available and is accessible.