Survey highlights exporters' mounting skills concerns

Survey of 2600 firms reveals skills shortage as exporters in both the manurfacturing and service sectors are struggling to find staff with the right skills amid concerns that immigration proposals won't remedy the problem.

Recruitment dice
The extent of the skills shortages facing UK exporters - both in manufacturing and services - was highlighted on Friday by a survey of more than 2,600 firms.

Survey of firms exposes skills shortages up from three months ago

The latest International Trade Outlook, compiled by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) in partnership with DHL, found that 80 per cent of manufacturers and 73 per cent of service companies that had attempted to recruit recently, had struggled to find staff with the right skills. The figures represented a marked increase on the previous report three months ago.Hannah Essex, co-executive director of policy at the BCC, said, “These are uneasy times for many exporters concerned by persistent uncertainty around Brexit and future terms of trade with key partners.“At a time when all of the cogs of government seem to be jammed by Brexit, issues crucial to the UK’s competitiveness and productivity have gone ignored. Business communities continue to shout about the scale of labour shortages, with four-in-five manufacturers reporting recruitment difficulties.

UK government's post-Brexit immigration proposals inadequate

"Yet there has been little action relating to improvements in the UK’s training or skills system, nor has the government’s immigration blueprint delivered on calls for a system to provide easy access to skills at all levels.“The government must urgently deliver clarity on the UK’s future after March 2019, and then immediately refocus on the fundamentals of the domestic environment. Removing barriers to growth at home is more important than ever at a time of such uncertainty and transition for our business communities.”

Weak sterling pushing up prices for manufacturers

The survey also found that half of exporting manufacturers planned to increase prices, with a weak sterling pushing up the cost of raw materials. Nevertheless, almost 60 per cent of both manufacturing and services firms said they expected turnover to improve over the course of the coming year.Shannon Diett, marketing vice-president at DHL Express, said, “The increased trade confidence index, rising four per cent on Q3 2018, indicates that despite the many difficulties, the resilience of British business remains, although businesses face pressure."This is in opposition to the Q3 results, which showed a decline on the previous quarter. There is also a very slight improvement year-on-year with an increase of one per cent on Q4 2017. As the trade confidence index is a measure of trade outside of Europe, this indicates increased trade beyond the borders of the EU."We would encourage businesses to continue looking beyond Europe for opportunities, and ask the government to ensure trade deals are in place post Brexit to enable this successful trade to smoothly continue."

Increasing trade confidence beyond the EU

Responding to the survey, a spokesman at the Department for International Trade said, "Global demand for UK goods and services continues to grow and the department is working hand-in-hand with industry to promote British exports around the world, through our recently launched Export Strategy that was welcomed by business groups."Our priority is to avoid disruption to our global trading relationships and seek continuity for UK business as we leave the European Union."Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online DirectorySubscribe to Relocate Extra, our monthly newsletter, to get all of the international assignments and global mobility news.

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