• ‘Skills gap hampering business growth’, say 65 per cent of UK leaders

  • 29 Apr 2013
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Chief execs want government support for training, finds PwC research

Almost two thirds of UK business leaders say a lack of employees with key skills is hampering their firm’s growth prospects, a PwC survey has found.

An international survey of 1,300 chief executives showed that British leaders are more worried about the availability of skills than their Western European peers, ranking it as the greatest threat to their company’s growth.

The results show that three quarters of chief executives want the government to prioritise initiatives designed to plug this talent gap with more support for training and learning in the next 12 months.

However, this view is in contrast to the leaders’ own immediate investment priorities, as only a third put filling skills gaps as their top priority for the year ahead. The majority of UK chief executives, 70 per cent, said upskilling their workforce was a longer-term goal with plans to increase investment over the next three years.

Sectors with the most chronic shortage of skilled employees were mining, energy, and engineering and construction.

“UK businesses are struggling with a widening mismatch between the skills of their workforce and the skills they need to achieve strong growth,” said Laura Hinton, HR consulting partner at PwC. “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.”

However, Hinton also said that investment in employee training and development should be a key priority for chief executives in the next 12 months rather than a longer-term aspiration.

The research also revealed that UK employers are planning to hire this year, with more intending to increase their headcount (45 per cent) than make cuts (35 per cent).

Hinton said: “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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  • Agree and endorse PWC training recommendation to close the skills gap. Key is developing existing talent, as an experienced trainer, I see many company employees with the talent and potential, but no budget to realise them.

    Training is about developing the people and relationships that grow business. It's short-sighted to cut budgets and consider training ineffective, when a tailored implementation will grow the leaders business need.

    In my 20 years plus experience, it's the interpersonal skills that are needed to close the communication gaps across process - and - incidentally, the time taken to undo the misunderstanding/miscommunication if denting the bottom line.

    Many of the skills gaps are impacting ROI ie one department works very well on their own, but don't realise how they are joined with others to deliver client satisfaction. Communication skills matter and by the way could even help grow revenue and take business out of recession.