Technical skills shortage for small firms

Small businesses still cannot find employees with the technical skills they need, despite numerous skills initiatives from the government, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has warned.

Feedback from the FSB’s 185,000 members has revealed that 36% of small firms find it difficult to recruit skilled staff, and they have concerns about the skills levels of existing employees.

Training is the obvious response to these skills gaps, but many formal courses are not relevant to businesses’ needs, the federation said.

The organisation is calling for a sustained investment in skills to boost productivity. It is urging politicians to provide funding for flexible packages so that training can take place in the workplace at convenient times.

FSB education and training chairman, Norman Mackel, said: “Despite the numerous task forces and initiatives dedicated to skills, employees still lack the technical skills that businesses need.

“Politicians have so far failed to listen to small businesses when they call for flexible training. A firm with five staff cannot release employees for lengthy periods so that they can attend long training courses at local colleges where much of the funding is directed. Courses need to be bite sized and targeted at solving specific problems.”

During the general election campaign, the FSB is calling on the political parties to promise:

  • Enhanced funding for private learning providers that deliver the bespoke, work-based packages that small businesses need
  • Apprenticeships that are responsive to employer demands
  • Short training courses targeted at solving specific business problems.

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