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Skills "mismatch" threatens economic recovery, report warns

The UK is facing a skills shortage that threatens to derail the economic recovery and undermine the country’s growth prospects, a major report warns today.

On the same day chancellor George Osborne told the Conservative party conference the government’s economic plan was working but “far from complete”, Hays’ Global Skills Index 2013 reveals a lack of key skills in the labour market.

The report says problems with talent "mismatch" have grown over the last 12 months as the economy shows signs of improvement.

While opportunities are being created, there are not enough skilled workers to fill them, the report says.

Industries such as oil and gas, energy, IT and construction, where niche skills are increasingly in high demand, are most affected.

The only European countries to face a greater discord between skills and jobs are Spain, Portugal and Ireland, all of which have been badly affected by the Eurozone crisis.

The report by recruitment group Hays, entitled The Great Talent Mismatch, is based on an analysis of employment markets across 30 major global economies.

It urges more action from the government and the business community to address skills shortages.

Controversially, it suggests the government review its immigration policies to attract skilled workers that are in short supply.

But in the long term, it says education policy must be aligned much more closely with the needs of businesses, and students should be motivated towards the education required to meet the demands of industry.

Hays’ chief executive Alistair Cox said: “Too many skilled jobs are now going unfilled because the right skills are in increasingly short supply. This makes a real dent on a company’s ability to grow and constrains the UK’s economic prospects at a time when we need to be encouraging a sustained recovery.”

A spokesman for the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) urged continued investment in apprenticeships.

“Addressing the talent mismatch requires means doubling the number of 16 to 18 year olds going into apprenticeships and a stability in the apprenticeships funding system which enables employers to plan properly for the future.”

Dr Fiona Aldridge, of adult education body NIACE, said the report showed more investment in adult learning is needed now more than ever.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said working together with business was an important component of the government’s industrial strategy.

“We are creating the conditions for employers to lead the skills system by reforming apprenticeships so that standards are developed by employers and meet their needs; creating a new generation of high level apprenticeships; and through the employer ownership pilots to fund and support skills in key sectors from 2015.”

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