Skilled staff won’t be there when firms need them, fears CBI

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More than three-quarters of businesses expect to increase the number of higher-skilled roles over the coming years – but two-thirds fear the people they need just won’t be out there.

That’s according to the 2018 CBI Education and Skills Annual Report, in partnership with Pearson.

The report represents 28,000 businesses and reveals that 85% of firms are expecting to maintain or increase investment in training in their workforce. Currently UK employers spend £44.2 billion on training expenditure each year.

When asked about the impact of the apprenticeship levy, the report highlighted a drop in the number of firms offering apprenticeship programmes (from 83% in 2017 to 70% in 2018). Worryingly, 59% of those firms that offer such programmes have experienced difficulty in recruiting apprentices or expect to do so in the next three years.  And over a quarter (26%) have taken the decision to absorb the levy as an added cost of doing business.

Business engagement with young people in education reduced from 81% in 2017 to 75% in 2018.  Encouragingly, two-thirds of respondents (65%) want to play a greater role in supporting schools and colleges.

John Cope, CBI Head of Education and Skills Policy, said: “This year’s survey shows the scale of the challenge to address skills gaps, with two-thirds of businesses deeply worried that there aren’t enough sufficiently skilled people to fill vacancies.

“Yet there’s room for optimism.  The vast majority of firms do expect to maintain or even increase their investment in staff training, as well as increase the number of higher-skilled roles over the coming years. This is the first time since 2014 that these numbers have been so positive.

“Policymakers, business, the education sector and the CBI all have their role to play, in helping the two-thirds of companies wanting to support schools and colleges.”

Rod Bristow, Pearson’s President, UK and Core Markets, said: “It is impossible to ignore the primary trend in this report – the gap between what is learned in schools, colleges and universities and what is valued by employers.  Qualifications are one part of the mix, as indicators of achievement and ability, but nurturing the right attitudes, behaviours and skills as young people progress through the education system is just as important.”