Skills gap grows

All sectors facing growing recruitment crisis

St James development Edinburgh

Construction tops the sectors seeking workers

More firms want to grow their workforces but a growing number say they are struggling to fill vacancies as the economy recovers rapidly from lockdown.

Well over a third (38%) of 5,700 businesses surveyed by the British Chambers of Commerce said they expected to take on more workers in the next three months, an 11-point rise from the previous quarter.

Only 5% expected to cut staff, a drop from 9% in the first quarter and a marked contrast to warnings of rising unemployment.

However, the demand for workers is creating a recruitment crisis as the percentage facing difficulties in hiring staff rose sharply for the second consecutive quarter – to 70% form 63% in Q1, which was a steep rise from 53% in the last quarter of 2020.

The skills shortage has been exacerbated by 1.3 million non-UK citizens leaving the country over the last year and many unable or unwilling to return. There is also evidence of workers avoiding jobs in consuming-facing sectors because of continuing Covid concerns.

Chambers head of people policy Jane Gratton said the economy needed “a cost effective immigration system” to help fill gaps in the workforce.

The sector with the highest proportion of firms reporting difficulties was construction at 82%, followed by hotels & catering at 76%.

Consumer services firms were the least likely to report difficulties but even in that sector the proportion facing issues was 61%. 

High proportions of respondents from construction and production & manufacturing firms expressed difficulty in filling skilled technical roles, 65% and 62% respectively.

In production & manufacturing, 42% expressed difficulty filling un-skilled roles, while 53% of construction firms said the same of managerial roles.  

Amongst retail firms 43% cited issues with skilled roles, 39% with managerial jobs and 35% with un-skilled roles.

For professional services and marketing & media firms the difficulties were overwhelmingly with managerial roles, cited by 69% and 60% respectively.

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Jane Gratton, head of People Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said:  “Whether people have found work in a different sector, changed their working patterns, or left the UK during the recession, firms are now struggling to find the people they need.  It’s vital that business, government and the skills system work together to find solutions.   

“Adopting more remote and flexible working patterns will help firms attract skills from a wider talent pool.

“But we also need access to rapid and agile training and re-skilling opportunities for adults in the workforce, alongside a flexible and cost-effective immigration system that ensures fast access to skills when these can’t be recruited locally.” 

Sustained labour shortages could lead employers to push up wages, which could then contribute to rising inflation if companies raise their prices to meet the cost of higher wage bills.

See also:

Minister calls for supply chain boost

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