Firms 'finding it tough to fill highly skilled jobs'

77% of businesses expect to have more jobs for people with higher-level skills over the coming years

Updated: 

Acute skills shortages are holding back businesses and many are struggling to fill certain roles, a survey of almost 500 companies has found.

More than two-thirds of businesses across all regions and many sectors - from construction to professional services - expected to find it hard to fill high-skilled roles, the study by CBI/Pearson Education and Skills found.

Despite there being a growing demand for higher skills, with 77% of businesses expecting to have more jobs for people with higher-level skills over the coming years, there remained concern about future shortages.

CBI deputy director-general Josh Hardie said firms needed to keep "upping their game" in workplace training as the UK carves out a new economic future after the vote to leave the EU.

He said: "There are very positive signs throughout the country with more businesses supporting schools, offering careers advice and investing in workplace training. Firms need to keep upping their game in this area.

"Skills are a top business priority but over two-thirds of firms don't think they will be able to get the people they need. Getting the skills and education system right across the country, particularly in partnership with the devolved nations, will be a big challenge ahead for the new Secretary of State."

Mr Hardie added that while the introduction of vocational routes to sit alongside A-levels was a "positive step" towards increasing access into skilled careers, the priority was now to get the Apprenticeship Levy, which is charged to UK employers to fund new apprenticeships, "fit for purpose".

He added: "Business remains committed to working with them to achieve this, but time is running out."

Rod Bristow, president of Pearson's UK business, said it was an "important finding" that many employers had openings for high-skilled employers.

He said: "This is an important reminder, at a time when some say too many people go to university, employers are voting for greater access to higher education with their job offers.

"We need a more informed debate about the skills higher education offers, and how we help more people benefit from higher education.

"Another important finding from this year's survey is that employers see academic and vocational qualifications as having equal stature. No coincidence then, that BTEC combined with A-level is now the fastest-growing route to university."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: "As businesses adapt and seize opportunities in the coming years, having a workforce with the skills to succeed will be more important than ever.

"That is why we're committed to creating three million high quality apprenticeships by 2020 and why we have just published a dedicated skills plan to ensure our workforce is world leading.

"We are introducing the apprenticeship levy so that businesses have the talent they need to grow and thrive.

"We will continue to work closely with businesses of all sizes to design the levy around their needs and the needs of their employees."

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