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UK — Demand for highly-skilled staff set to grow during the recovery

18 May 2010

A new report published by employer organisation Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and sponsored by AIM-listed Education Development International Plc (EDI), the vocational qualifications and work-based learning specialist, reveals that demand for highly-skilled people will intensify during the recovery and employers fear they will not be able to find people with the skills they need to fill high-level jobs.

The survey was answered by 694 employers, which together employ over 2.4 million people and represent companies of all sizes and sectors.

51% of employers are concerned they will not be able to fill posts requiring the right graduate level or higher skills in the coming years, and 32% don't believe it will be possible to fill intermediate level jobs, requiring skills equivalent to A level (Baccalaureat equivalent). 30% of employers predict the need for lower-level skills will decrease, while just 17% say it will increase.

Despite the recession, 45% of employers say they are already having difficulty recruiting staff with skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), with manufacturers and science-related businesses having the most difficulty finding highly-skilled people to fill their posts. Even more companies (59%) expect to have difficulty finding STEM-skilled people in the next 3 years.

Richard Lambert, CBI Director-General, said "in the future, people with qualifications in science and maths will be particularly sought after, and firms say it is already hard to find people with the right technical or engineering skills. The new government must make encouraging more young people to study science-related subjects a top priority. Businesses can help by showing that these skills lead to exciting and rewarding careers, helping to tackle the big challenges, such as climate change and energy security."

"Employers across all sectors recognise there is a need to improve the calibre of leadership and management skills, and this is particularly marked in the public sector."
Companies recognise the importance of training during the economic downturn, with two-thirds (63%) seeing investment in skills as very important to their strategic objectives and future growth. Even during the fragile recovery period most employers (72%) plan to maintain or increase spending on training and development, only 28% plan to cut training budgets, most plan no change (58%) and some even plan to increase spending (14%).

Employers are concerned about the basic skills of their current workforce. The biggest problem is with IT skills, where two-thirds (66%) of employers report concern. However, half of employers are also troubled by employees' basic literacy (52%) and numeracy (49%) skills.

In the past year alone, a fifth of employers have arranged remedial training for young people they have recruited from school or college, in literacy (18%), numeracy (18%), and IT (22%). When it comes to the existing workforce, employers are also providing basic training in literacy (22%) and numeracy (18%), with the need for IT training even higher (43%).

Nigel Snook, EDI Chief Executive, said "the transition from school, college or university to the world of work is still one of the most challenging stages in many people's lives. Despite the fact that employers and government invest considerable sums of money and effort in this area, the survey demonstrates there is still work to do to more effectively harness these resources."

"In particular, there is clear evidence that more practical, experience-based teaching programmes better suit the learning styles of many young people, especially those who are likely to continue their education and development through vocational opportunities."

The survey also shows that employers remain committed to providing apprenticeships, despite the recent recession. Over half of employers in our survey (54%) are currently involved, although participation is lower among SMEs. A fair proportion of firms (14%) plan to get involved with apprenticeships in the future.
To read the full survey please click here



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