Published On: Thu, Jan 8th, 2015

UK Faces High-Skilled Workers Crisis

According to the latest CBI/Accenture Employment Trends Survey the UK faces a crisis in maintaining a higher-level skilled work force, causing major concerns on the outlook of the UK’s economy.

The CBI/Accenture report entitled ‘A Better Off Britain’ reaffirms the Independent Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) Autumn Statement that “wage and productivity growth have once again disappointed”.

The CBI/Accenture Employment Trends Survey 2014 covers 323 businesses “employing a combined total of more than 1.25 million people”. The survey indicates that 50% of firms expect their workforce to “grow in number over 2015 with Scotland leading the way”.

The high-skills set shortage is said to be due to globalisation and technological change that has led to a greater demand among businesses for a workforce with higher level skills.

In a nutshell there are simply not enough people in the UK to fill these positions, even though Parliament announced this month that the UK had reached its landmark of 2 million young people in apprenticeships.

The CBI Deputy Director-General, Katja Hall said, “it’s a concern that the UK’s growing skills gap is now seen as the number one workforce threat to the long-term health of the economy.”

Additionally the UK Commission for Employment and Skills research displays that the number of jobs requiring no formal qualification has nearly halved over the past ten years. It is also forecast that by 2022 half of all jobs will require workers to have completed some form of higher education (this threshold is predicted to continue to increase).

As a result of the report more pressure will be applied to businesses to make development a board-level priority, plus investing in line managers as a long-term solution. The short-term solution may be to attract migrant workers from abroad with higher-level skills.

Highlights of the 2014 survey’s findings include:

  • 50% of firms plan to increase their workforce in 2015, with only 12% planning to reduce it, giving a positive balance of +38%
  • Job growth is expected across all parts of the UK: a positive balance of +50% in Scotland; +49% in the North West; +45% in Wales; +44% in the West Midlands; +44% in the North East; +44% in the South East; +43% in London; +43% in the East Midlands; +42% in Yorkshire and Humber; +41% in the East of England;  +37% in the South West and +36% in Northern Ireland
  • Jobs for permanent staff are increasing more rapidly than temporary posts, with a balance of +28% (40% plan higher recruitment and 12% lower) of firms planning to raise permanent hires and +16% their temporary workforce (30% higher, 14% lower). Last year the balance of permanent posts was +18%. Again, this is across all parts of the UK
  • Low level of skills (63%), closely followed by the burden of employment regulation (61%) are seen as the greatest workforce threats to UK competitiveness – respondents believe this will still be the case in five years’ time (54%). In 2013, 68% of firms cited the burden of employment regulation as the biggest threat, 65% highlighted skill levels
  • Graduate job prospects are picking up with +30% of organisations planning to increase their graduate in-take in the next 12 months (36% plan to increase and 6% reduce levels – last year the balance was +20%). Openings for apprentices are also increasing with a balance of +33% looking to recruit more in 2015
  • The need to invest in the digital literacy of the workforce is a growing priority for business. Of those businesses planning on investing in digital over the coming year 92% of firms recognise digital literacy and skills as a driver for efficiency.


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