The spectre of skills shortages reared its head again this week. The fear of an impending lack of skilled labour has been voiced by employers regularly for more than a year now, but the Reed Skills Shortage Index appears to confirm that the problem is here in reality, with the position substantially worsening during the past six months.
Finding the right people to fill vacancies is not the only problem, though. The CBI’s Fit for the Future report suggests that skill limitations within companies’ existing workforces are also a factor in limiting growth.
The benefits of job flexibility and multiskilling are becoming more widespread, but have yet to be fully realised, while the removal of layers of management has left companies with a void between the top and bottom of the organisation, and a perceived inadequacy of managerial skills.
While the CBI says the UK’s record in investment and training is surprisingly good, with the recognition of its importance growing, it warns that much of this investment may simply be rectifying failure of the education system rather than developing higher skill levels. British Chambers of Commerce endorses the view that the system ‘is evidently failing’.
How can this be addressed? The CBI makes the valid point that business cannot solve the problem on its own. The Government has already made overhaul of the education system a priority. The CBI goes further, proposing a partnership between the Government, business and support organisations in a ‘cultural change campaign’ to get the message of best practice and benchmarking across to a wider audience, with measurable performance targets.
This is a constructive point: the Government should respond positively.