Poor skills levels force firms to recruit overseasJun 25, 2012
Chamber of Commerce chief executive Cheryl Smart was responding to a speech by Labour leader Ed Miliband last week in which he called for changes to encourage overseas workers who would contribute to the UK economy and society.
Mrs Smart said that employers were looking overseas because of poor skills levels among UK workers, particularly the young.
She added: “The government must work together with business to identify skills gaps and to ensure the education system is responsive to the needs of the economy.
"It should not be about protecting UK workers from foreign competition but instead we must ensure they are equipped with the right skills to compete with the best in the world.”
Speaking to the Institute of Public Policy Research, Mr Miliband said that Britain had to control its borders but it should always “face outwards to the world”.
The UK needed effective border controls and had to enforce laws on wage protection, he added. He also called for “a more responsible capitalism that continues to attract people from abroad who contribute their talents to our economy and society, that offers proper wages and good conditions.
“That is the kind of economy that will enable Britain to compete with the world."
Mrs Smart welcomed a debate on immigration. She added: “But for too long, UK firms have struggled to find the skilled workers they need locally and in some sectors are forced to recruit from overseas.
“Employers are concerned about high levels of unemployment, particularly among the young, and want to help local people into work. However, they often find that domestic candidates lack the skills, experience and work ethic they need – it has nothing to do with costs.”
The British Chambers of Commerce’s 2011 Workforce Survey found that only 3.5% of companies that employ at least one migrant worker do so because of reduced wage costs. Instead they cited skills and experience that are in short supply among domestic candidates and a better work ethic among migrant workers.