Skills gap ‘hindering UK business growth’, say CEOs

Almost two-thirds (65%) of UK CEOs have said that a lack of skills is hampering the growth prospects of their organisations, according to a report published today.

The global survey of more than 1,300 CEOs, carried out by consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), found that UK business leaders are more concerned about the availability of skills than any of their western European counterparts, citing it as the greatest threat to their growth.

The findings have led to a call for the Government to prioritise initiatives that help to build a skilled workforce.

However, the survey also found that only one-third of UK CEOs recognise “filling talent gaps” as a priority for the year ahead. Instead, it was perceived as a longer-term goal, with 70% of respondents saying they plan to increase investment in their workforce over the next three years.

Laura Hinton, HR consulting partner at PwC, said: “UK businesses are struggling with a widening mismatch between the skills of their workforce and the skills they need to achieve strong growth. There needs to be a joint approach to addressing the problem, with business and Government working together to plug the skills gap. Apprenticeship programmes are a great example of where business and the Government are already working together to tackle this issue.

“At a time when growth is top of all businesses’ agendas, investment in employee training and development should be a key priority for CEOs for the year ahead rather than a longer-term aspiration.”

The research also found UK businesses are planning to hire this year, with more UK businesses planning to increase their headcount (45%) than make cuts (35%). The remaining respondents (17%) expect their headcount to remain relatively static.

Hinton said: “Despite the difficult economic backdrop, it is encouraging that UK businesses are continuing to hire. While headcount has been an obvious target for cost cutting in the past, many business leaders are finding smarter ways to strip costs out of their business which won’t damage their employees’ engagement and leave them with talent shortages in the future.

“The most successful companies will combine recruitment with developing the people they already have. Those with a balanced approach to growing their own talent and buying in key skills are most likely to succeed.”

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