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North West most pessimistic region about burgeoning skills gaps


Research released by the City & Guilds Group and Emsi today has revealed that businesses in the North West are amongst the most pessimistic throughout the UK in terms of future skills shortages.

People Power, a study from the City & Guilds Group and Emsi that interviewed 109 C-Suite executives in the North West, found that 47% of business leaders are struggling to recruit the skilled people they need, and 25% say existing staff don’t have the right skillset. A staggering two thirds (67%) of C-Suite executives in the North West anticipate these skills gaps staying the same or getting worse in the coming years.

As Brexit uncertainty continues to grip the region, the report reveals that skills gaps will only be exacerbated when the time comes for the UK to leave the EU. 44% of those surveyed say it will have an impact on the ability of their business to grow over the next three to five years, and 39% say skills shortages will take a hit. The research found that Brexit is already having a significant effect on the region, with a quarter (25%) of respondents saying it has had a negative impact on their ability to recruit the skilled people they need.

However, the report revealed that business leaders in the North West are already investigating possible solutions to the skills gap. 92% intend to increase salaries over the next three years in order to get the skilled staff they need. Meanwhile, some businesses recognise the value of learning and development, with 24% saying they’re going to upskill their current workforce in order to mitigate the negative impact of Brexit on their business’ ability to recruit skilled people.

The North West’s C-Suite has also voiced concern that plugging the skills gaps isn’t just a problem for businesses to solve. 44% of C-Suite executives in the North West say educational institutions need to be better aligned to the needs of business, and 42% say the education sector and the Government need to collaborate better with businesses.

Kirstie Donnelly, Managing Director City & Guilds Group, said: “Our research shows that the North West is facing a critical skills shortage, and as Brexit looms on the horizon, business leaders aren’t feeling positive. Learning and development should sit at the heart of the solution, and although a quarter of North West businesses are planning to upskill their current workforces, more should be taking this route.

“It’s encouraging to see the Government listening to employers’ needs and introducing more flexibility into the apprenticeship levy so that a greater number of employers can access and benefit from apprenticeships, although we know there is still a way to go until the system works for all. However it’s also vital that business, the education system and Government work together to improve skills levels in this country if we are to maintain our competitiveness post-Brexit.”