‘New visas needed’ to tackle UK shortages

A leading British business organisation is calling on the government to introduce a system of temporary visas in a bid to overcome the nation's skills shortages.

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The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) made the call after its latest 'Recruitment Outlook' survey showed that 78% of companies attempting to recruit in the first three months of this year had encountered problems finding staff.

Recruitment struggles continue for businesses

Jane Gratton, head of people policy at the BCC said: “The UK government needs to take concrete action to address labour shortages as they are a key factor in the economy’s stuttering recovery. If firms cannot get the people they need then productivity and revenue are two of the first casualties.

“Government must also ensure that people can access rapid retraining opportunities for in-demand jobs at all skill levels in the workforce. At the same time, where there is clear evidence of national shortages damaging the economy, we need temporary visas for hard-working people willing to come to the UK to work in the essential everyday roles that we all rely on.

“Businesses are investing more in developing home-grown talent and creating a more inclusive and diverse workforce, but this won’t solve pervasive skills shortages overnight. Right now, the priority has to be to improve access to skills and ease the wider cost pressures facing business.”

The call from the BCC came as delegates attending a Manchester Tech Week conference were told that, according to the sector's trade body, techUK, the industry is currently recording 100,000 vacancies every month.

Struggle to find talent rises as businesses attempt to recruit in first quarter

Katie Gallagher, managing director of Manchester Digital and the new chair of the UK Tech Cluster Group, said: “This year is particularly interesting because we are dealing with the normal talent shortage as well as the pent-up demand post-Covid.

"There has been a massive drive through digital transformation, so the types of companies we work with have completely changed, it’s not just digital and tech companies - most companies now have a tech or digital capability.”The BCC survey of 5,500 businesses found that all sectors of the economy faced significant recruitment issues, with the worst affect being hospitality, construction, logistics and manufacturing. Some 60% of respondents said they had attempted to find new staff in the first quarter.

Firms reported a broad range of issues that had contributed to the recruitment squeeze, including disruption arising from the pandemic and a drop in the availability of foreign staff.

At the time official statistics show a record number of job vacancies across the UK, the BCC found that increasing numbers of firms were also reporting that wage competition was proving disruptive.

Ms Gratton commented: “It’s now harder than ever for businesses to fill job vacancies and there are no signs of improvement. In an increasingly tight labour market, competition for skills is ramping up wage costs, leaving many firms unable to recruit the people they need.

“When combined with the escalating price of energy, shipping, raw materials and other costs, it is a precarious situation for businesses. Inevitably, it is the smaller firms, with little in the way of cash reserves after two years of pandemic, who are most exposed to the risk all this presents."
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Read more news and views from David Sapsted in the Spring 2022 issue of Think Global People.

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