A shortage of skills is now reaching a critical level for businesses throughout the UK, according to the British Chambers of Commerce which today publishes its Quarterly Economic Survey.
Based on the responses of over 7,000 businesses, including those in Norfolk, the survey shows that growth in the UK economy remains subdued, with almost all services indicators below their pre-EU referendum levels and the strong performance of manufacturers easing slightly in the final quarter of 2017.
Of the service sector firms hiring, the percentage of Norfolk firms reporting recruitment difficulties rose to 83 per cent, a rate not seen since the second quarter of 2016.
The survey, regarded as the UK’s largest and most authoritative private-sector business survey, shows that in manufacturing, the percentage of recruiting firms reporting greater difficulties remained static from the last quarter at 73 per cent.
In both the manufacturing and service sectors there have been considerable rises in the proportion of businesses expecting prices to increase in the next three months.
The results highlight the need to kickstart the economy by addressing the barriers to growth – in particular the growing skills gap – which is hindering the ability of companies to find the workers they need to develop.
Commenting on the results, Nova Fairbank, public affairs manager for Norfolk Chamber said: “While there are many business bright spots across Norfolk and the rest of the UK, the evidence from the biggest private business survey in the UK shows that growth and confidence remain subdued overall as we enter a new year.
“Labour and skills shortages are set to be the biggest potential drag anchor on business in 2018, since ultimately it is people that make businesses work. Business itself must do more – by training and investing wherever possible in people – but government must also give firms the confidence to put their livelihoods on the line and go for growth.
“The UK results highlight that, apart from Wales (88 per cent), the East of England (82 per cent) has the highest number of recruitment difficulties in the UK. This must be the year employers act rather than just complain about skills, and the year government delivers clarity, leadership and investment in people and infrastructure. Kick-starting growth, and boosting wages and prosperity for all, depends on this.”