BCC Workforce Survey 2014: Firms investing to counter persistent skills shortages

The BCC is calling on businesses of all sizes and in all sectors in the UK to invest in workforce training as a key driver for economic success and improved productivity performance.

  • The BCC’s Workforce Survey highlights that 92% of businesses have identified a skills shortage among their workforce in at least one key area
  • Most common skills shortages are leadership and management, planning and organisation, languages, computer literacy and creativity 
  • 80% of businesses surveyed have plans to invest in training. 39% plan to invest more than £500 per staff member
  • Cost, staff availability and a lack of suitable courses remain key barriers for businesses looking to invest in training

Overview

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) is calling on businesses of all sizes and in all sectors in the UK to invest in workforce training as a key driver for economic success and improved productivity performance.

Today (Wednesday) the business group is publishing further findings from its 2014 Workforce Survey: Training and Skills, which show that an overwhelming majorityof firms (92%) have identified a skills shortage among their workforce in at least one key competency. Results from the survey of nearly 3,000 businesses from across the UK suggest the most common skills shortages are leadership and management, planning and organisation, languages, computer literacy and creativity.

In order to address these skills gaps, most respondents (80%) have indicated plans to invest in training their workforce over the next 12 months. The majority of businesses strongly agree (78%) that training is worthy of investment as a driver for growth and improving productivity performance, with large businesses most likely to strongly agree (90%). Four in ten firms (39%) plan to invest more than £500 per employee in external training over the next year. However, the major barriers to training investment are: cost (50%), freeing up staff to participate in training (31%), and a lack of suitable courses (19%).

Companies looking for guidance on appropriate training courses are turning to private training providers, (71%) sector based bodies (38%) and further education colleges (35%) to source and deliver training, frequently brokered by local Chambers of Commerce.

Key findings from the survey:

  • Companies report that communication skills (83%), teamwork (82%) and customer service (72%) are important skills they look for when recruiting. Encouragingly, less than one in five firms report a shortage in these areas.
  • Around a third (33%) of businesses say they have a skills shortage in leadership and management and planning and organisation (26%), which businesses recognise as core skills relating to commercial development. Firms also report a skills shortage in languages (35%), computer literacy (23%) and creativity (20%).
  • In terms of future investment plans, more than a third of companies (41%) plan to invest up to £500 per employee in external training, while a similar proportion (39%) plan to invest a higher amount.
  • Businesses within the energy, mining and utilities (59%), education (50%), IT and telecoms (48%) sectors are most likely to invest more than £500 per employee in training.
  • Micro firms (those with nine or less staff) intend to invest in training over the next 12 months. 35% have earmarked more than £500 for each employee.
  • The type of training being invested in varies, but for the majority it is on-the-job training (78%). More than half of companies have invested in health and safety (59%), first aid (56%) and technical / job specific training (56%).
  • Within a firm, the overall workforce tends to receive one to five days training per annum, with 65% offering that amount. Newer members of staff (under one year) often receive more training – 34% receive one to five days, 26% receive five to 10 days and 16% receive 11 to 20 days.

Commenting, Nora Senior, President of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“Businesses recognise that investing in training can drive higher productivity and increased profits. In addition to specialised training, however, our findings make it clear that investment in leadership and management skills are crucial to enhance strategic thinking, foster innovation and motivate a firm’s employees.

“It is good to see that most businesses are taking a proactive approach by investing in their existing workforce. Four in ten tell us they are planning to invest £500 or more per member of staff to address skills shortages. Yet we need far more companies to reach this level, which will only happen if we break down the barriers to investing in training.

“Long-standing complaints around the cost of training, a lack of suitable courses, and staff availability – since people are needed at the front line – remain important issues. To ensure that even more businesses can invest in training, which in turn will drive higher wages, we need to improve dialogue between firms and the organisations that offer training – so that companies find training that is relevant, cost-effective and a good fit with staff working hours.

“Accredited Chambers of Commerce provide objective advice to employers on appropriate local training providers, and help negotiate lower costs through group purchasing. Many also offer direct, business-to-business training themselves. Governments seeking to promote investment in the UK’s workforce should work with Chambers to ensure that investment in training continues to grow.”

 

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