UK skills shortages remain major headache, survey shows

Almost three-quarters of UK businesses who tried recruit staff in the third quarter of the year experienced difficulties finding the skills they needed, according to a major survey.

UK office workers
The latest 'Recruitment Outlook' from the British Chambers of Commerce BCC), in partnership with Totaljobs, also found that 27% of British businesses planned to increase their headcount over the final quarter of 2019.

Almost 75% of UK businesses are finding it difficult to hire skilled staff

But the nation's longstanding skills shortages was emphasised by the fact that 73% of businesses who attempted to hire new staff in Q3 encountered recruitment difficulties - up from 64% in the second quarter."Skills shortages were predominantly felt across skilled manual roles and professional roles, with 80% of construction firms and 71% of transport and distribution businesses facing difficulties recruiting the right staff," said the BCC."Despite concerns over the Brexit deadlock, labour market performance and expectations are holding up fairly well. Only 11% of businesses have decreased their workforce in Q3, with one in four businesses increasing their total headcount. Headcount remained consistent at 62% of responding businesses."

UK Employment: Less than 10% of firms plans to retrench workers

The survey found that just 8% of UK firms expect to decrease their headcount in the current quarter, with two-thirds saying they expected no change in their workforce numbers. Totaljobs said that more than 740,000 job vacancies were advertised on its site in the third quarter.The report said that over the quarter, only 28% of micro- businesses had attempted to recruit, compared to three-quarters of SMEs and 90% of large businesses with more than 250 employees.

BCC: UK policymakers should be alarmed by skills shortages

Adam Marshall, director-general of the BCC, said, “Jobseekers will welcome the fact that many businesses are continuing to hire staff, but policymakers should be alarmed that skills shortages continue to bedevil firms – particularly in the skilled roles that will be needed to drive healthy manufacturing and export performance following Brexit.“The next government must swiftly translate election promises into action and deliver more generous investment in high-quality technical and vocational education at all levels, alongside a flexible, fast and affordable immigration system that provides access to a broad range of skills. It must radically reduce upfront business costs so firms have the confidence and cashflow to back this up with on-the-job training and apprenticeships.”

750,000 vacancies advertised on Totaljobs

Patrick Wehrmann, CEO of Totaljobs, added, “The labour market remains one of the strongest pillars of the UK economy, and in the previous quarter, there were almost 750,000 vacancies advertised on Totaljobs, driving over 13 million applications from the UK workforce.“Despite economic uncertainty, our latest research indicates that the labour market is buoyant, and with over a quarter of businesses looking to expand their workforce with an increased headcount in Q4, this looks set to continue.“However, it’s notable that skills shortages continue to affect businesses UK-wide, and as such, regardless of wider economic concerns, employers should be mindful that they are doing what’s necessary to attract and retain the best talent on offer.“Totaljobs research shows that workers are particularly driven by professional development and training, clear progression paths, and a healthy work-life balance. It’s vital that employers put these things front of mind and continue to drive investment in their people in order to keep staff engaged, and drive business output during a dip in the economy.”

Read more news and views from David Sapstead

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