Skills shortages are the biggest threat to UK competitiveness

A new survey reveals that a lack of skills is compromising economic success and calls for greater co-operation between business and Government

Britain’s skills deficit is the biggest concern for businesses across the country, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has warned. 

Shortages of skilled workers are the top threat to competitiveness, with the skills gap cited by 64 per cent. And it is top of the list of worries for the future, with 58 per cent singling it out.

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The latest CBI/Pertemps Network Group Employment Trends Survey also reveals that less than half of firms are planning to take on more staff in the near future. Just 41 per cent of respondents to the survey, who employ 1.2m people between them, are anticipating an increase in their workforce in the coming year.

Being able to have access to skilled migrants (58 per cent) as well as enough labour to fill shortages (50 per cent) are also among the top worries that businesses have over the future.

“Firms should be able to access enough people with the right skills at the time they need them. And that includes the capacity to draw on people and skills from overseas when necessary,” states the report. 

“The UK’s departure from the EU must not imperil future economic success by leaving businesses facing shortages of people in the right numbers and equipped with the right skills,” it adds.

Carmen Watson, chair, Pertemps Network Group, commented: “Skills gaps remain a concern for employers as having the right people with the right skills is crucial for any organisation’s performance.”

A significant number of companies are concentrating on training as a way to improve their future prospects. Nearly one in three employers (30 per cent) plan to increase apprentice recruitment in the next 12 months, with just four per cent planning to reduce it. And improving leadership skills is one of the top priorities for the coming year, according to 37 per cent of companies.

The value of L&D is recognised by a significant proportion of business leaders. Training and development opportunities (18 per cent), opportunities for progression (22 per cent) and having the right skills for the job (27 per cent) are among the main drivers of employee engagement, says the survey.

Josh Hardie, CBI deputy director general, said: “Businesses need the confidence they can employ the right people at the right time. They will continue to invest heavily in skills and training, working with the Government to grow the skills base needed for a thriving economy.”

However, the survey warns that CBI research has indicated that the apprentice levy due to come into force next year force many businesses to consider reducing the amount they invest in non-apprenticeship training, or simply label existing schemes as apprenticeships.

It states: “Business engagement in the final stages of design – and throughout the transition – will be critical in ensuring the system delivers the best outcomes for apprentices, businesses and the economy.

Debbie Carter

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