Acute skills shortages are holding back businesses across all regions and many sectors, including manufacturing, construction and professional services, according to new research.
The survey reveals there is a growing demand for higher skills. Credit: Fotolia
CBI and Pearson Education and Skills carried out a survey of nearly 500 companies, together employing over three million people.
The poll completed before the EU referendum and shows firms anticipating a growing skills gap. Leaving the European Union only heightens the urgency for action.
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Business commitment to developing current and future talent remains strong, but there are real concerns about some policies, according to the survey. The Apprenticeship Levy is a particular worry – the Department for Education, with an expanded remit, will need to give serious consideration to the current design and timetable.
The survey reveals there is a growing demand for higher skills: over three quarters of businesses (77 per cent) expecting to have more jobs for people with higher-level skills over the coming years and needing more people with intermediate-level and leadership and management skills.
Josh Hardie, CBI Deputy Director-General, said: “A successful future for the whole UK rests on our education and skills system. Following the vote to leave the EU, the UK must carve out a new economic future and this is an area where we must take action to support our competitiveness and prosperity.
“There are very positive signs throughout the country with more businesses supporting schools, offering careers advice and investing in workplace training – firms need to keep upping their game in this area.
“Skills are a top business priority but over two-thirds of firms don’t think they will be able to get the people they need. Getting the skills and education system right across the country, particularly in partnership with the devolved nations, will be a big challenge ahead for the new Secretary of State.
“The recent announcement of new high-quality vocational routes to sit alongside A-levels was a positive step towards increasing access into skilled careers and something the CBI has called for repeatedly.
“Now the priority is getting the Apprenticeship Levy fit-for-purpose as it will need a genuine change of direction if it is to work for apprentices, business and the economy. Nine months out from the planned start date businesses still lack vital information – the new administration should take the time to get this right.
“Business remains committed to working with them to achieve this – but time is running out.”
Firms are committed to developing talent in-house: with only 42 per cent of training done externally, the majority use an in-house dedicated training and development budget (76 per cent), mentoring and coaching opportunities (68 per cent) or support employees to study part-time (73 per cent).
However, there is a concern about future shortages: over two-thirds of businesses (69 per cent) are not confident about filling their high-skilled jobs in future (up from 55 per cent in 2015.
Rod Bristow, President of Pearson’s UK business, said on the finding that many employers have openings for high-skilled employees.
“This is an important reminder, at a time when some say too many people go to university, employers are ‘voting’ for greater access to higher education with their job offers. We need a more informed debate about the skills higher education offers, and how we help more people benefit from higher education.
“Another important finding from this year’s survey, is that employers see academic and vocational qualifications as having equal stature. No coincidence then, that BTEC combined with A level is now the fastest growing route to university.”