Belfast Telegraph

Productivity gains in UK threatened by skills shortage, warns manufacturers body

Most manufacturing firms are struggling to recruit skilled workers, which threatens to "derail" productivity gains, a new report has warned.

The Government was accused of failing to get to grips with the "skills crunch" despite an expected rise in demand for suitably qualified staff.

The EEF manufacturers' group said a survey of over 200 firms found that three out of four faced problems recruiting skilled staff in the past three years.

The number of hard-to-fill vacancies remained "stubbornly high" at over a third.

Tim Thomas, director of employment and skills policy at the EEF, said: "Despite multiple warnings about the UK's yawning skills gap, the dial hasn't moved since 2012.

"Manufacturers continue to struggle to find the right people with the right skills. Undoubtedly this has led to lost opportunities for employers, would-be employees and the UK economy.

"Had manufacturers not already been taking action we would arguably already be over the cliff edge and not just approaching it.

"The demand for skills is going to soar in response to manufacturers' productivity plans."

The EEF called for grants for some apprenticeships.

A Business Department spokesman said: "We are supporting employers up and down the country to address skills challenges by pressing ahead with our reforms to education, skills training and higher education, making sure every young person has the skills employers need now and for the jobs of the future. That includes with the new apprenticeship levy putting employers back in the driving seat.

"The Government is working closely with the manufacturing sector to maximise productivity and has already taken steps like cutting red tape by a further £10 billion and investing £6.9 billion in the UK's research infrastructure."