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June 17, 2011

Businesses struggling to find skilled recruits, survey finds

Small firms are struggling to find new employees with the skills they want, despite high unemployment meaning many more candidates on the job market.

That’s the conclusion of a new report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), which found that the number of UK businesses getting unsuitable candidates for jobs has risen by 7 per cent in the last year alone.

The report’s author, CIPD adviser Claire McCartney, said that a “safety-first” attitude among employees was contributing to the shortage of available skills – and holding up economic recovery.

“Free movement of talented individuals is being impeded by a reluctance to voluntarily change jobs in volatile economic times – and the problem is worse now than at the height of the recession,” she said.

“We expect a continued ‘safety-first’ approach from employees, with many wanting to stay put for the next couple of years at least, making it difficult for employers to really drive competitive edge through the recruitment of talented individuals.”

Small firms, however, were experiencing higher staff turnover than their larger counterparts and were filling fewer vacancies internally (15 per cent compared to a national average of 25 per cent) – meaning they are more exposed by the lack of good candidates.

Overall, the Resourcing and Talent Planning survey found that 75 per cent of the survey’s 636 respondents with vacancies to fill had struggled to do so in the last year (68 per cent in 2010). 52 per cent of respondents said competition among employers for talent was greater in spite of higher unemployment, compared to 41 per cent in 2010, and just 20 per cent in 2010.

Of these, almost three-quarters (73 per cent) cited a shortage of managerial, specialist and technical skills as the major obstacle to recruitment. “People who are leaving jobs haven’t necessarily kept their skills up to date and may be in need of some training,” said McCartney’s colleague, Angela Baron.

“Recruiters have to get a bit more savvy,” she continued. “Perhaps they are expecting to find people with a much higher level of skills for their job because of the high profile news about redundancies.”

The survey also shows a fall in the number of employers to recruit 18-24-year-olds, with small firms in particular doing less to recruit graduates. The findings mirror a separate survey of 526 businesses by Ethical Skills and Training (EST) which found that just 7 per cent of companies with up to nine employees were considering hiring 18-24-year-olds in the next 12 months, compared to 22 per cent of medium-sized companies (50-99 employees).

Lack of experience was cited as the major reason for their reluctance, followed by a range of ‘soft’ workplace skills, such as timekeeping, appearance and communication.