SKILLS – or a shortage of them – remain one of the most serious challenges facing employers, according to a leading academic health check of UK business.
Yet more than half of employers have no specific skills programmes or workplace development initiatives in place to grow their existing pool of talent.
Those organisations are missing out on the opportunity to invest in developing their employees at a time when many are bemoaning a lack of quality applkicants for their vacancies.
The findings are published in the annual Business Barometer report from The Open University in Milton Keynes and the British Chambers of Commerce. The skills gap is a challenge faced by 73% of organisations surveyed and its impact is having a negative knock-on effect on staff morale and wellbeing.
The pressure it is creating is also curbing companies’ activity and output as well as their long-term growth plans. This could lead to more challenges for the economy as well as the UK’s ability to meet its net zero and equality, diversity and inclusion targets.
Baroness Martha Lane Fox pictured left is the OU’s Chancellor and president of the British Chambers of Commerce. “It is clear from this year’s Business Barometer report that the skills shortage has not improved, despite the existing efforts from organisations across the UK. We have not solved it yet,” she said.
“But what is even more concerning is that organisations are not investing in specific talent pools, including underrepresented groups. If organisations continue to ignore these workers, they risk missing out on untapped talent and deepening the skills gap even further. There could be a big opportunity for employers here if hidden talent is given a boost.”
The Business Barometer also highlights the prospect of an ageing workforce retiring without employers having the skills to replace experienced employees. 31% of employers report an increase in the number of employees over the age of 50 in the last three years.
Yet despite the ageing workforce, 85% of organisations have no specific initiative in place for workers over 50 and 77% do not have any written annual plans to prepare for people exiting the business.
Almost 80% have plans to bring in training in some form for their staff over the next 12 months but the report says that many, especially SMEs, lack the necessary expertise and resources to strategically address the skills gaps and challenges. As a result, many firms are trapped in a cycle of continual recruitment and retention challenges.
“Skills shortages are biting hard, damaging businesses and holding back our economic growth,” said the BCC’s head of people policy Jane Gratton. “Never has it been more important for businesses, governments and training providers to work together to find solutions.
“There is no doubt that more investment in training and reskilling is essential, together with a laser-like focus on boosting technical skills at all levels, and – crucially – creating a much more agile and flexible skills system to help employers who are struggling with hard-to-fill job vacancies.”