Businesses suffering skills shortages as recruitment difficulties worsen

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Almost three-quarters of business who attempted to recruit faced difficulties in Q3, rising 9% compared with Q2, a new report reveals as skills shortages worsen.

The latest ‘Quarterly Recruitment Outlook’ from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) reveals that skills shortages were predominantly felt across skilled manual roles and professional roles with 80% of construction firms and 71% of transport and distribution businesses facing difficulties recruiting the right staff.

In the run up to Christmas, 70,000 transport and distribution roles were advertised on Totaljobs in Q3, receiving an average of 23 applications per vacancy.

Despite concerns over Brexit deadlock, labour market performance and expectations are holding up fairly well. Only 11% of businesses have decreased their workforce in Q3, with one in four businesses increasing their total headcount. Headcount remained consistent at 62% of responding businesses.

Looking forward, one in four businesses plan to increase their headcount in Q4 2019, and two in three expect to keep their workforce consistent. Just 8% of UK firms expect to decrease their headcount in Q4 2019.

Supporting signs of a buoyant recruitment market, over 740,000 job vacancies advertised on Totaljobs in Q3 2019, with over 13 million applications made on the platform.

Although over half (54%) of UK businesses tried to recruit in Q3 2019, just one in four (28%) micro businesses attempted to recruit. In contrast, 75% of small and mid-sized businesses and 90% of large businesses (250+ employees) recruited in the same period.

BCC Director General Adam Marshall said: “Jobseekers will welcome the fact that many businesses are continuing to hire staff, but policymakers should be alarmed that skills shortages continue to bedevil firms – particularly in the skilled roles that will be needed to drive healthy manufacturing and export performance following Brexit.

“The next Government must swiftly translate election promises into action and deliver more generous investment in high-quality technical and vocational education at all levels, alongside a flexible, fast and affordable immigration system that provides access to a broad range of skills.

“It must radically reduce upfront business costs so firms have the confidence and cashflow to back this up with on-the-job training and apprenticeships.”