One of the UK’s largest business groups has renewed calls for visa relaxations after its latest recruitment survey showed three-quarters of businesses were still encountering problems finding staff.
At a time when the nation has more job vacancies than the total registered as unemployed, the survey of more than 5,000 firms by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) found that staff shortages were impacting firms’ efforts to improve productivity.
Some 76 per cent of businesses that have attempted to recruit staff in the third quarter reported problems finding candidates with the right skills. All sectors of the economy were affected, with the keenest problems reported by manufacturing and hospitality firms.
Shortage Occupation List to get longer?
The findings led to the organisation repeating its call to the Government to expand the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) to make it easier for businesses to get visas for specific skills. Such organisations as the Confederation of British Industry are making similar demands to ministers.
Alex Veitch, the BCC’s Director of Policy and Public Affairs, said: “Unless we find a solution to the long-standing recruitment difficulties facing UK businesses then any plans to boost economic growth are doomed to failure. We have to fix the people problem before we can make headway on the productivity issue.
“With more than half of all businesses operating below full capacity, despite months and months of desperate attempts to fill jobs, it is clear something has to change.“This is now preventing firms from operating profitably and they are being forced to turn customers away. The longer that continues the more damaging it becomes.
“Answers are urgently needed, so that firms can not only keep their doors open through these tough times but start to think about the future.”
A combination of measures needed to reduce skills gaps
In addition to reforming the SOL, the organisation wants to see incentives to encourage firms to upskill their workforce by investing more in training, adopting more flexible working practices and expanding apprenticeships.
The survey found that 56 per cent of all businesses reported that staff shortages were preventing them from operating at full capacity, with that percentage increasing to 71 per cent in hospitality.
Sectors suffering most with recruitment challenges
The manufacturing sector was the worst affected by severe recruitment problems, with 82 per cent reporting difficulties. This was closely followed by hospitality (81 per cent), logistics (79 per cent) and construction and engineering (77 per cent).
The BCC added: “Attempted recruitment in Q3 remained broadly the same as the previous quarter, with 62 per cent of firms looking to find staff…but there was a noticeable increase in the number of hospitality firms trying to find staff at 77 per cent, up significantly since the beginning of the year.”