Two-thirds of firms reported difficulty recruiting highly skilled people, such as IT/technology, creative and finance and engineering specialists. Science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills are in high demand, whilst basic skills, such as core literacy and numeracy, alongside transferable skills, such as communication and business awareness, were also ranked as key traits firms look for in their employees.
Recognising this, half of firms have established links with schools or colleges. Of those businesses, half provide work experience to students and over a third provide careers advice and talks. It is striking that over half of businesses want a reformed visa system to remove the barriers to hiring highly skilled individuals from overseas. Firms highlight the need to continue to improve visa service standards, remove the net migration target and reform business visitor visas.
The survey of 115 London firms shows increased optimism about the economy, but it is growing at the slowest pace in a year. About half of respondents are optimistic about their business prospects over the next six months, with 66 per cent planning to expand their business over the next year – the highest figure recorded since the start of 2014. Nearly two-thirds of firms aim to increase headcount over the next six months, 10 per cent up on the last quarter, and only 18 per cent plan to reduce headcount, 5 per cent down on the last quarter.
Lucy Haynes, CBI London Director, said: “Having the right skills to drive the capital’s economy forward is a core ingredient in the recipe for continued success.
“It’s important that businesses seize the opportunity to work with schools and colleges and ensure that London’s students, who will build the capital’s future, are equipped with the skills firms want in their employees. Science, technology, engineering and maths skills are particularly valuable, given that London’s thriving creative and technology sector is set to be a big growth contributor over the next five years.
“To keep the capital internationally competitive, as well as attractive to skilled workers policymakers need to look at further streamlining the visa system. We would also like to see the Mayor take urgent action to free up land for house building, and invest more in the city’s transport infrastructure.”