HR · 20 July 2016

Worried about skills shortages, small firm owners are taking matters into their own hands

high-skilled jobs
Half of small firm owners have forged links with schools or colleges

Fewer than one-third of small business owners are confident there will be enough people available to fill high-skilled jobs in the future, according a new education and skills survey conducted by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in partnership with educational publisher Pearson.

They survey of almost 500 employers took into account the views of managers of organisations of all sizes, and almost one-third of responses were from SME owners.

It revealed that more than three-quarters expect to have more job openings for people with higher-level skills in future, while almost 70 per cent expect to have more openings for those with management skills.

The survey highlighted the large proportion of UK business leaders who are dissatisfied with the quality of school leavers, with half unimpressed by 18-year-olds’ communications and analysis skills, and 26 per cent admitting to shortcomings in their teamwork abilities. Almost one-third expressed concerns about leavers’ basic numeracy, and 32 per cent had qualms with their use of English.

It also shed light on apprenticeships, with over 70 per cent of the businesses involved in the survey offering them – but almost half of managers struggling to recruit trainees.

“By far the most important skills factor centres on attitudes and aptitudes such as ability to present well. The majority of employers have concerns in these areas, whereas less than a quarter worry about formal qualifications,” wrote Pearson UK president Rod Bristow in the report’s foreword.

“These soft skills have hard outcomes. Some say it is not the role of schools to provide these skills. So whose role is it? And to what extent should we shape our qualifications to reflect these skills? That’s a debate we need to have.”

To combat skills shortages, more than four-fifths of the business leaders surveyed said they would be increasing or maintaining their investment in training in the year ahead, and 84 per cent encourage employees to discuss development with their line managers. Half of small firm owners have forged links with at least one school or college to raise commercial ambitions and skills amongst young people.

“There are very positive signs throughout the country with more businesses supporting schools, offering careers advice and investing in workplace training – firms need to keep upping their game in this area,” said CBI deputy director-general Josh Hardie.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Hannah Wilkinson is a reporter for Business Advice. She studied economics and management at Oxford University and prior to joining Business Advice wrote for Kensington and Chelsea Today about business and economics – as well as running a tutoring company.

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