Stubborn skills problems remain a barrier to growth

The CBI’s annual Education and Skills survey shows that well reported skills problems remain a barrier to growth in the UK.

Published today, the findings suggest that skills shortages are not being addressed and that employer confidence is still undermined by concerns over their ability to recruit and retain the skilled individuals they need.

294 firms employing 1.24 million workers took part in the survey. Thirty nine per cent said they are struggling to recruit workers with the advanced, technical STEM skills they need and with 41% predicted that these shortages will persist for the next three years.

Over half the survey responders lack confidence in their ability to find highly skilled workers they need to fulfil business plans in the future. The most worried employers spoke out from the manufacturing, engineering and construction industries.

Age old problems in education were highlighted as core issues in persistent skills shortages. Low standards in literacy, numeracy and basic technical skills were criticised with 48% of firms saying they had been forced to invest in basic remedial training for employees – up from 42% last year.

The ability of school leavers to adapt to a working environment was also felt to be lacking. Over half of employers said that school leavers need better work experience with 54% saying self-management was a core weakness among young people freshly out of schooling. Thirty five per cent said that the attitude to work of school leavers was sub standard.

In response to this years’ report findings the CBI has called for skills and apprenticeships budgets to be stretched as far as possible in next week’s Spending Review. The need for greater employer control in the allocation of funding was also identified.

John Cridland, CBI Director-General said that government needed to accelerate the implementation of recommendations made in the 2012 Richard Review of Apprenticeships in order to make vocational routes into work more effective and robust.

The most worried employers spoke out from the manufacturing, engineering and construction industries.

“We need to boost our skills base urgently before the UK loses more ground. It’s time to stop looking on enviously at Germany and build a system that works,” asserted Mr Cridland.

The criticisms of education and skills in the UK which the CBI’s survey express, come inspite of significant investment in apprenticeships, University Technical Colleges, studio schools and other intiatives designed to bridge the gap between education and the world of work.

The Employer Ownership of Skills scheme, for example, comprises a £250 funding pot for employer-led skills initiatives. Some SMEs however, such as fluid hydraulics equipment manufacturer, Quick Hydraulics, have said the scheme is inaccessibly to smaller firms who feel the pinch of skills shortages most painfully.

The CBI/Pearson report released today shows that 93% of firms in the UK still want more control of the skills system.

On a more positive not however, while Rod Bristow, president of Pearson UK said that it employers were still expected to carry out “too much of the leg work,” on skills the 2013 survey showed that 70% of employers intend to maintain or increase their investment in training in the coming year.

The CBI conducts it annual education and skills survey in partnership with training company, Pearson.