Thursday, June 21, 2007

UK skills shortages crisis set to deepen despite migrant workers - survey

LONDON (Thomson Financial) - The current skills shortages crisis in the UK is expected to deepen, despite employers looking to source a greater number of staff from other countries to plug the shortage, according to a survey by recruitment company Vedior.

In an interview of human resources managers for the survey, Vedior said that 38 pct of those managers expect the skills crisis to get worse in the next few years.

The skills gap has led to 40 pct of the organisations polled in the public, manufacturing and services sectors to say it is very likely they will have to raise salaries to attract and retain the right people. This was more acute for manufacturers.

Rate-setters at the Bank of England have expressed concern about rising wage pressures feeding through into broader inflation in the economy.

The most commonly cited shortage is engineering skills, faced by 20 pct of organisations, followed by 10 pct each for skilled manual positions and financial specialists. Amongst public sector organisations, 32 pct face a shortage of healthcare workers, and 18 pct skills in finance.

A hefty 67 pct of the organisations interviewed feel that membership of the European Union will help them to fill skills shortages, with nearly a quarter saying that eastern Europe provides the best source of foreign talent for this, way ahead of France (9 pct) or Germany (8 pct), or Asia which barely featured (India 4 pct, Far East 3 pct).

Among manufacturers, 38 pct said eastern Europe would be the best source outside the UK.

However, companies seemed to support the government's approach to using immigration to address skills shortages, saying that the recent restrictions on workers from new EU members Romania and Bulgaria will not affect their ability much to fill positions.

In order to counter the skills gap, 39 pct of companies said they expect to invest in training to counter the skills gap.

They also suggested that employing workers which do not fit the traditional 9-5 working hours could alleviate the shortage, for instance people aged over 50, foreign and temporary workers, people returning from career breaks, and by introducing family-friendly policies.

However, the organisations added there is a strong need to improve the education standards of new entrants to the labour market, particularly in literacy, numeracy and spoken English, and to link education more effectively to the workplace and skills training.

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