Majority of firms expect struggle to fill high skill jobs

Acute skills shortages are holding back businesses across all regions and many sectors, with more than two-thirds expecting difficulties in filling high-skilled roles, according to the latest CBI/Pearson Education and Skills survey.

The survey of nearly 500 companies, together employing over three million people, was completed before the EU referendum and shows firms anticipating a growing skills gap. According the CBI, leaving the European Union only heightens the urgency for action.

The survey found that business commitment to developing current and future talent remains strong – but there are real concerns about some policies. The Apprenticeship Levy is a particular worry – the Department for Education, with an expanded remit, is urged to give serious consideration to the current design and timetable.

There is a welcome, growing demand for higher skills, with more than three-quarters of businesses (77%) expecting to have more jobs for people with higher-level skills over the coming years, alongside needing more people with intermediate-level and leadership and management skills (42% and 67% respectively).

However, there is a concern about future shortages, with more than two-thirds of businesses (69%) unconfident about filling high-skilled jobs in future (up from 55% in 2015).

CBI Deputy director-general, Josh Hardie said: “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.

Apprentice
A priority has to be getting the Apprenticeship Levy fit-for-purpose, says CBI Deputy director-general, Josh Hardie.

“The recent announcement of new high-quality vocational routes to sit alongside A-levels was a positive step towards increasing access into skilled careers and something the CBI has called for repeatedly.

“Now the priority is getting the Apprenticeship Levy fit-for-purpose as it will need a genuine change of direction if it is to work for apprentices, business and the economy. Nine months out from the planned start date, businesses still lack vital information – the new administration should take the time to get this right.

“Business remains committed to working with them to achieve this – but time is running out.”

Hardie continued: “As it stands the levy system will work in Whitehall but it won’t work in Walsall, or any other part of the UK where business is training and developing people.

You can download a full copy of this year’s CBI/Pearson survey, here.

“While the ambition is positive, the current design does not recognise the breadth of great training currently being delivered and runs the risk of unintended consequences, including fewer apprenticeship opportunities, downward pressure on wages or cut-backs on non-apprenticeship training

“Our survey shows how businesses develop and nurture talent and that’s why their priority for the levy is flexibility: so companies can invest in what works.”