CBI president urges businesses to tackle incoming 'perfect storm' of staff shortages

The CBI is urging businesses to prepare for an impending ‘perfect storm’ of labour shortages as the UK works on recovering from the pandemic-induced economic fall-out. Hauliers, hospitality, and food and drink are among the worst affected, the group says.

CBI president Lord Bilimoria says that as lockdown lifts, many businesses in these sectors are already reporting problems recruiting.

“The latest REC/KPMG report shows overall candidate availability during the past quarter declined at its quickest rate since 2017. It’s a big challenge, not just for individual businesses, who can’t find the people they need, but also for our longer-term economic recovery.

“We’ve got a perfect storm of factors coalescing. During the pandemic, many workers from overseas left the UK to return home – hitting the UK’s hospitality, logistics, and food processing industries particularly hard.

"The UK’s immigration system is also a barrier to hiring people from overseas to replace those who may have left. Meanwhile COVID has added major uncertainty. With some sectors locked down longer than others, experienced workers have moved to businesses that stayed open. Other people are understandably wary of changing jobs right now.”

On top of all this, Bilamoria says the UK’s longstanding skills shortages haven’t gone away. Lord Bilimoria says businesses can help themselves by opening up apprenticeships or widening access for candidates with technical qualifications, or tackling labour shortages by investing in innovation and technology.

He also recommends that employers consider recruiting from a wider talent pool, by working with organisations and charities – like Mind, Business in the Community, Movement to Work and DisabilitySmart.

Where there are clear, evidenced labour shortages, businesses should be able to hire from overseas. “An evolving Shortage Occupations List could help. But it’s really important to stress - workers from overseas aren’t, and shouldn’t be, our only response to labour shortages. Investing in skills here, too, is vital. It’s not an either/or choice. We must do both to ensure our firms have the access to people they need to succeed.”

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