The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) recently surveyed 7,300 businesses in the manufacturing and services sectors, and found that those seeking to hire had increased by up to 9% in the last quarter, with both sectors reporting “solid growth” within the first quarter of 2017.
It also found “confidence in turnover and profitability is improving”, and that around 86% of manufacturing firms, up from 77% in the last quarter, and 59% of services companies, up from 53%, wanted to find new staff.
However, some 74% of manufacturing firms and 58% of services businesses said they were struggling to find staff.
Head of economics at the BCC, Suren Thiru, told the BBC: “The main issue is finding enough people with the right skills, and of course the workforce is aging.
“A lot firms are also finding their costs rising and this is deterring business investment, including investing in training their staff.”
Partly to blame were new upfront taxes, he said, such as the recently introduced immigration skills charge and new National Living Wage.
But, Thiru states that the rising cost of imported raw materials, resulting from the weakness of the pound since the Brexit vote, had also squeezed business spending.
“Another emerging issue is whether firms can continue to get workers from overseas both in the run-up to, and after, Brexit,” he added. “Industries like hospitality and construction are heavily dependent on EU workers.”
Government is working hard to provide skilled workers, including the introducing the new apprenticeship levy to train existing workers and recruit new skilled staff. A government spokesman told the BBC: “The UK economy has shown sustained momentum since the EU referendum and it’s encouraging to see continued investment and growth in important sectors like manufacturing and services.
“We know that businesses need a highly-skilled workforce to attract the right people for the right jobs and we are helping to deliver this through initiatives like our modern Industrial Strategy, our £500m annual investment in technical education and the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy.”
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