The challenge that many businesses are facing in trying to get the right people for their workforce has been detailed in a UKCES Employer Skills Survey.

Of the 91,200 employers surveyed, 19% had a least one vacancy, up from 15% in 2013.

“Skill-shortage vacancies” (vacancies that are hard to fill due to a lack of skilled applicants) present a growing challenge for business owners looking to fill their vacancies. 6% of employers had at least 1 skill-shortage vacancy, an increase from 4% in 2013.

86% reported that they had a fully proficient workforce, while the impact of skill gaps continued to affect smaller businesses. The remaining 14% have a current gap in skills in their workforce, and UKCES estimates this equates to around 1.4 million staff not being fully proficient in their role.

The survey also found:

  • 8% had difficulty retaining staff in specific jobs
  • 2 million workers reported to be under-utilised, leading to missed opportunities to increase performance and productivity
  • 66% had funded or arranged training and development for their staff
  • total employer expenditure on training increased by 6% between 2013 and 2015, from £43.0 billion to £45.4 billion.

Nigel Holland from Holland & Co Chartered Accountants said:

“There exists at present a skills shortage which needs tackling with a comprehensive approach by both government and businesses. The way to deal with this skills shortage is as follows:

  • In the short term allow small amounts of immigration from overseas to help fill the positions.
  • In the medium term there needs to be training offered by businesses and we need to ensure that the apprenticeship levy is flexible enough so that firms can train staff to fill the vacancies which exist.
  • In the long term schools need to ensure that career guidance is accurate so that children can plan their chosen career path with confidence. Also it is important that their career path ends in them acquiring meaningful employment.”