SMEs expect struggle to fill high-skilled roles


Business commitment to developing current and future talent remains strong – but there are real concerns about some policies, according to the survey. The Apprenticeship Levy is a particular worry – the Department for Education, with an expanded remit, will need to give serious consideration to the current design and timetable.

The survey reveals that there is a welcome, growing demand for higher skills with over three quarters of businesses expecting to have more jobs for people with higher-level skills over the coming years and needing more people with intermediate-level and leadership and management skills.

Firms are committed to developing talent in-house: with only 42 per cent of training done externally.

However there is a concern about future shortages: over two-thirds of businesses are not confident about filling their high-skilled jobs in future.

Speaking about the research findings Josh Hardie, CBI Deputy Director-General, said: “A successful future for the whole UK rests on our education and skills system. Following the vote to leave the EU, the UK must carve out a new economic future and this is an area where we must take action to support our competitiveness and prosperity.

“There are very positive signs throughout the country with more businesses supporting schools, offering careers advice and investing in workplace training – firms need to keep upping their game in this area.

“Skills are a top business priority but over two-thirds of firms don’t think they will be able to get the people they need. Getting the skills and education system right across the country, particularly in partnership with the devolved nations, will be a big challenge ahead for the new Secretary of State.

“The recent announcement of new high-quality vocational routes to sit alongside A-levels was a positive step towards increasing access into skilled careers and something the CBI has called for repeatedly.

“Now the priority is getting the Apprenticeship Levy fit-for-purpose as it will need a genuine change of direction if it is to work for apprentices, business and the economy. Nine months out from the planned start date businesses still lack vital information – the new administration should take the time to get this right.

“Business remains committed to working with them to achieve this – but time is running out.”

An Apprenticeship Levy that works remains a key priority

Prior to the introduction of the levy, engagement with apprenticeships has been growing: 71 per cent of businesses surveyed offer apprenticeship programmes.

The business priority for the levy is to ensure firms can offer more, and better quality training places – not simply rebadged current training. To deliver this, the new system must be responsive to business need and give increased flexibility to spend levy funds.

Over half of businesses demand better clarity between the UK and the devolved nations as to how the system will work.

The poor current levy design means that close to half of businesses expect the levy to cause increased prices or reduce margins. Most pressingly, firms foresee having to make cuts to non-apprenticeship training and downward pressure on wages is likely, while 17% say they are likely to cut numbers to meet levy costs.