Call for urgent short-term measures over skills shortages

The CBI has criticised inaction over labour shortages across sectors, saying problems could last two years or more, while a report from Scotland highlights ongoing diversity issues in business leadership.

female construction workers


Labour supply problems could last for up to two years and will not be solved by the end of the furlough scheme, according to Tony Danker, the CBI’s Director-General who is critical of the Government’s apparent inaction on the skills shortages problem.

The CBI is calling for the Government’s shortage occupation list, which helps recruit workers from abroad to fill particular skills gaps, to be updated to include lorry drivers, welders, butchers and bricklayers.

It adds that marrying skills policies to roles with the highest unfilled vacancies and adding greater flexibility to the Apprenticeship Levy are also things that the Government could do now to alleviate the pressure across industry. It states: “A lack of HGV drivers has dominated the headlines, but the challenge extends well beyond to include other skilled professions, and along with resulting disruption to supply chains, has led to increasing calls for action in the run up to Christmas.”

The CBI Director-General is also urging businesses to play their part on long-term productivity reforms by continuing to invest in training, automation and digital transformation, together with doing more to attract and retain staff from a diverse talent pool.

“Standing firm and waiting for shortages to solve themselves is not the way to run an economy,” said the CBI director general, Tony Danker. “We need to simultaneously address short-term economic needs and long-term economic reform.”

He added that this takes time, hence the need for urgent short-term action. He said: “Building a more innovative economy – coupled with better training and education – can sustainably improve business performance, wages and living standards. But transformation on this scale requires planning and takes time. The Government’s ambition that the UK economy should become more high-skilled and productive is right. But implying that this can be achieved overnight is simply wrong. And a refusal to deploy temporary and targeted interventions to enable economic recovery is self-defeating.

“The CBI has heard from companies actively cutting capacity because they can’t meet demand, like the hoteliers limiting the number of bookable rooms because they don’t have enough housekeeping staff and can’t get linen laundered. Meanwhile some restaurant owners have had to choose between lunchtime and evening services when trying to make the most of summer.”

Meanwhile, a report from the David Hume Institute on the make-up of Scottish businesses reveals that they continue to be managed by a small pool of elite-educated men.

The study found that one in four leaders of the top 50 businesses have worked at just four services companies (Accenture, EY, McKinsey and PwC) while three out of ten also held positions on other boards. The analysis found there are still more leaders called John (7%) than female leaders (5%), while fewer than one in 10 investment company leaders are female, below the UK average of 13%, with 20% of angel investor leaders being women. The report also found that 65% of investment company leaders attended an elite university with one in five of these attending Oxford or Cambridge. This compares to 49% of Angel Investment leaders who attended an elite university.

The report said: “Ensuring work spaces are inclusive to everybody is critical in improving and maintaining diversity, as it can prevent loss of talent which often stops progression to the top leadership roles.”

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