Last updated: 04.03.16

UK’s widening skills gap ‘losing businesses money’

The UK’s growing skills gap is impacting on business performance, with one in four vacancies going unfilled last year due to a lack of qualified candidates.

Such findings come from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) report, entitled Employer Skills Survey 2015. 

Furthermore, 14 per cent of employers said there was a significant skills gap within their existing workforce, which equates to approximately five per cent of employees in the UK, or 1.4 million people.

Nineteen per cent of employers said they had at least one unfilled vacancy in 2015, which is a jump from the 15 per cent who said the same in 2013. Furthermore, six per cent of respondents said they had at least one skills shortage vacancy, which is up from 2013’s figure of four per cent. 

In terms of the type of role, it was revealed that recruiting for machine operatives was particularly difficult, with 33 per cent of vacancies here cited to be caused by a skills shortage, up for 25 per cent in 2013. In addition, skilled trades continued to experience the highest density of vacancies due to skill shortages, at 43 per cent.

Unsurprisingly, the construction sector also reported that it was significantly impacted on by skills shortages. Employers within this sector found it difficult to fill one in three vacancies.

The financial services showed the sharpest rise in skills shortages, which rose from just ten per cent in 2013 to 21 per cent in 2015. 

Characteristics and skills most missing in applicants for skills shortage vacancies included time management, customer-handling skills and possession of specialist skills or knowledge. 

Furthermore, these skills shortages have been shown to significantly affect business revenues.

Over two-thirds of employers who reported recruiting difficulties also said that this was causing a direct financial impact either due to loss of business to competitors, higher operating costs, and/or the need to outsource work. 

Dr Adam Marshall, executive director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), underlined that these skills shortages are costing businesses financially and called for the government to focus on the quality of apprenticeships, rather than the quantity. 

“Now is also not the time to introduce an Immigrant Skills Charge, as recently proposed by the Migration Advisory Committee. 

“Businesses are currently experiencing acute skills shortages and we shouldn’t further handicap them by increasing the cost of recruiting the talent they need,” he added.

It is clear that many candidates for jobs could benefit from undertaking courses and qualifications that would enable them to be successful in their applications, while also filling the skills gaps that employers so need them too.

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