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‘The ability to find specialist talent is proving a real headache for business leaders’

FINDING staff with the right skill set is set to be the biggest challenge facing employers for years to come, according to new research by The Open University.

Its annual Business Barometer report, compiled with the Institute of Directors, shows that almost two-thirds of organisations are struggling to find staff with specialist skills and relevant experience. 

One in four expect it to be their biggest challenge over the next five years and the report says almost half of employers struggle when recruiting for non-senior roles.

Despite the challenges 56% of businesses believe that apprenticeships and work-based learning are critical to their long-term success, an increase of 8% from last year.

Of employers currently working with apprentices, 96% plan to maintain or increase the number of apprentices in their organisation.

The Business Barometer report is a temperature check on the UK’s business landscape, based on a survey of 1,500 business leaders.  

Viren Patel, director of the OU’s business development unit, said: “The ability to find specialist talent is proving a real headache for business leaders today. Our survey findings highlight the skills gap is here for the long haul and it has not improved in the last 12 months.” 

The skills and labour shortage is being felt across many sectors of the UK economy and employers see this as a long term challenge, he added. “Almost two thirds of organisation leaders admit they have struggled to find the right people with the right experience, demonstrating the need for enhanced training to nurture employee skills, knowledge and workplace learning.

“We want all organisations from all sectors to think ahead and invest to fuel future talent and success.”

Unfilled vacancies put extra workload on current staff and the. Skills shortage hinders their growth potential and may affect staff wellbeing. A third of employers say they have left a position vacant due to not being able to find an appropriate candidate, while 32% have introduced new training to existing employees.

Kitty Ussher, chief economist at the IoD, said: “This year’s Business Barometer demonstrates the huge impact that both the pandemic and Britain’s decision to leave the European Union have had on recruitment at all levels. Over six in ten firms now say they have a skills shortage. 

“On the plus side, we are also seeing optimism around the potential for remote working to fill skills gaps and an appreciation of the role of apprenticeships to train tomorrow’s workers. 

“We are asking the UK government to put lifelong learning, retraining and upskilling at the heart of their Budget so that firms and individuals alike can fully take advantage of the massive opportunities that are available as our economy recovers and restructures.”

Download the full report at https://www.open.ac.uk/business/news/open-university-business-barometer

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