Recent research has suggested that the UK’s skills gap is growing wider and more problematic. The latest annual survey from the CBI has shown that considerably more employers are concerned about difficulties in recruiting skilled staff than at the time of last year’s survey.
500 employers were questioned for the CBI survey, with a combined total of three million staff. 69% of these businesses said that they were worried that they may not be able to source enough staff for skilled jobs. Last year, such concerns were only expressed by 55% of respondents.
The survey suggested that demand for unskilled labour, meanwhile, would continue on a downward trend while companies will seek to employ greater numbers of skilled individuals. This would shift the emphasis of the labour market more firmly towards skilled workers, making the possible shortage even more concerning.
Josh Hardie, deputy director of the CBI, said that it was now a “top business priority” to close the skills gap and ensure that businesses had access to a sufficient pool of skilled workers. However, it is believed that eliminating the shortage may be all the more difficult following the UK’s exit from the European Union.
The CBI’s report on the findings of the survey will states that, as well as having the current shortage of skills in the UK workforce to deal with, the country will also have “potentially reduced access to migrant skills which will also impact businesses.” According to the director of employment and skills for the CBI, Neil Carberry, it is “absolutely critical” for the government to give businesses a firm statement on what will become of EU nationals who already live and work in the UK. The wake of the referendum has seen a number of calls for such individuals to be protected in their status as legal migrants who are entitled to work. However, recently-appointed Prime Minister Theresa May made comments earlier this month which have led many to fear that this may not be the case.
The CBI survey also showed that businesses are concerned not only about job skills amongst the pool of available employees, but also basic skills. Nearly one in three businesses that responded to the survey said that they were worried about poor levels of literacy and numeracy among new hires. However, the survey also showed that formal qualifications are not everything to businesses when looking for new employees, with a majority of businesses rating them as less important than “attitude to work.”