Head of People Policy, The British Chambers of Commerce
The impact of widespread skills and labour shortages is a major concern for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as they struggle to progress.
Our data in the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) reports that across all regions and sectors, three out of every four firms are struggling to fill vacancies. In addition to having an impact on the morale, wellbeing, and retention of staff, these shortages are preventing firms from fulfilling their order books.
Ongoing shortage issue
Skills shortages have been an issue for many years, but the impact of the pandemic and Brexit have brought things to a crisis. With 1.3 million job vacancies across the UK and far fewer people in the labour force than before the pandemic, we need to find solutions. Employers, the Government, education providers, and individuals all have a role to play and need to work together.
We believe that a local approach is key to ensuring the right match between workers and businesses in communities. For employers in England, engaging with the new Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs) will help ensure the right training is available for people in their businesses as well as for those in the wider community.
Schools and colleges must welcome and embrace businesses that want to help young people understand career options in their area. There needs to be a greater focus on the technical training and apprenticeship routes that lead to sustainable jobs.
We believe that a local approach is key to ensuring the right match between workers and businesses in communities.
Responding to the crisis
Creating the right environment for businesses to invest in skills, and individuals taking charge of their own career development, is key to resolving the skills shortage. The BCC is calling on the government to use the tax system to stimulate more private sector investment in training. At the same time, we need a more agile skills system with the flexibility to respond quickly to the changing workplace. Employers are telling us they want greater access to shorter, more modular courses that help people get the skills they need quickly.
Of course, there are times when skills are needed urgently and cannot be found locally or nationally. This is when the UK immigration system must help firms fill job vacancies, and we at the BCC are campaigning for an urgent review of the shortage occupation list (SOL) to include more jobs at more skill levels.
Tackling this issue must be high up on the priority list of the new prime minister to ensure firms can keep their doors open during these challenging times.