Lack of vocational education holds back UK’s global push

Employers in the UK are suffering the worst skills shortages in Europe and
as a result, are struggling to expand and compete in a global market.

A survey of 6,000 firms across Europe has found that 38 per cent of UK firms
identify a shortage of skilled staff as the major constraint on business
expansion, with a lack of vocational education in schools largely to blame.

This makes the UK’s shortages the worst in Europe and the third worst
worldwide, behind Canada (41 per cent) and South Africa (39 per cent).

The survey, by consultancy Grant Thornton, looked at the skills problems of
28 countries around the world, with more than 600 respondents in the UK.

Difficulties arise nationwide, but areas such as the East of England, Wales
and the South West are particularly badly affected by a lack of suitably
skilled workers.

Graeme Forbes, head of entrepreneurial services at Grant Thornton, believes
schools must place more emphasis on vocational rather than academic qualifications
to help supply employers with the skills they need.

"Addressing this problem should be at the top of the Government’s
business agenda," he said. "If the UK is going to be in a position to
really trade on the world stage, we have to foster a culture where
entrepreneurship is encouraged and vocational qualifications are just as
attractive as academic ones."

The construction industry has been hardest hit, with 60 per cent of firms in
the sector citing staff shortages as the key constraint to the ability to do

Other sectors struggling to find enough appropriately trained staff include
the service industries with 37 per cent having difficulties and manufacturing
(32 per cent).

By Ross Wigham

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