Skill shortage remedy is in its infancy

Employer-provided childcare could become a new battleground in the war against manufacturing’s skill shortages, one of the sponsors of a Daycare Trust survey said this week. ‘If you look at the shape of the workforce and the age at which people now have children, it is obvious that this issue is going to build. It […]

Employer-provided childcare could become a new battleground in the war against manufacturing’s skill shortages, one of the sponsors of a Daycare Trust survey said this week.

‘If you look at the shape of the workforce and the age at which people now have children, it is obvious that this issue is going to build. It is already influencing job decisions among more qualified staff,’ said Jonathan Phillips, marketing director of childcare voucher firm Familylife Solutions.

He said the survey found that 85% of engineering companies recognised a business case for ‘family-friendly policies’, but that less than half this number had introduced or planned to introduce childcare schemes.

As skill shortages continue, some sectors were looking to redress the balance, he noted. The IT sector is the most advanced.

‘You are now seeing major firms like Balfour Beatty seeing this is a big issue. Defence contractors are also becoming more aware because they are having to match the perks that IT companies provide to get high-enough calibre staff,’ he said.

The survey launched National Childcare Week (May 24 31) and follows last week’s government consultation paper proposing ‘childcare tax credits’ for working families from 1999.

Phillips said he was sceptical about the credits’ general impact. ‘Most families will not qualify. If you look at the figures, it is obvious that government is targeting the very low paid. Skilled staff will still be looking for something from their employers,’ he said.

The survey, based on the UK’s top 500 firms, found that while 74% overall agreed with the business case, only 38% offered actual childcare, vouchers, and helplines, while only 13% planned to offer childcare benefits.