Leaving the EU has 'heightened urgency to address skills shortage'

Ensuring everyone has the right skills for the workplace has been found the most pressing need for businesses according to a new survey.

Over two thirds of firms struggle to fill highly-skilled roles, a record for the CBI/Pearson Education and Skills survey, which polls close to 500 companies. SMEs make up nearly a third of respondents, with the survey covered manufacturing, construction, creative and professional services sectors.

Acute skill shortages are holding back business, according to the report, with the impending exit from the EU 'heightening the urgency for action'.

The survey found that there was a growing demand for higher skills, with 77% expecting more jobs for people with higher-level skills over the coming years. Firms are committed to developing talent in-house, the survey found, with only 42% using external training. Concerns of future skills shortages were up to 69% from 55% in 2015.

“A successful future for the whole UK rests on our education and skills system," said Josh Hardie, CBI Deputy Director-General. "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."

Rod Bristow, President of Pearson’s UK business, said on the finding that many employers have openings for high-skilled employees: “This is an important reminder, at a time when some say too many people go to university, employers are 'voting' for greater access to higher education with their job offers. We need a more informed debate about the skills higher education offers, and how we help more people benefit from higher education. Another important finding from this year's survey, is that employers see academic and vocational qualifications as having equal stature. No coincidence then, that BTEC combined with A level is now the fastest growing route to university.”