UK firms confident over exports but warn of skills shortages


UK firms are increasingly confident about exporting goods and services, but are being hit by problems recruiting skilled staff, according to a new study.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said two thirds of exporters had difficulties hiring staff in recent months, the highest number since the end of 2013.

A survey of 2,000 firms by the BCC and DHL found that over a third expected to take on additional staff in the coming months amid increased confidence.

John Longworth, director general of the BCC, said: "This week we celebrated the achievements of those taking their A-levels, but we have to remember that academic results are not the only thing employers look for.

"We need to make sure that the skills young people develop in schools equip them for the world of work. In the 21st century the countries with the most skilled workforces will be the ultimate winners globally.

"Our research shows that while confidence among exporters is rising, businesses are struggling to get access to the skilled staff that they need."

Phil Couchman, chief executive of DHL Express UK, said: "It is vital that we all, as employers and educators, continue to up-skill our workforce in the UK.

"Whether that's through apprenticeships for young people, or further investing in the development of our existing employees, a commitment to bettering our workforce is essential in ensuring that the skills gap is plugged and the UK remains competitive on a global scale."