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Businesses face record recruitment difficulties

UK firms are facing the highest level of recruitment difficulties on record, according to new British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) research.

Data from its Quarterly Recruitment Outlook for 2022 found one in eight (82%) organisations reported recruitment difficulties in Q4, up from 76% in Q3.

Firms in the hospitality sector were most likely (87%) to face challenges when recruiting, closely followed by manufacturing (85%), construction, professional services, public, education and health sector all on 83%.

Speaking to HR magazine, Simon Tetley, head of talent at hotelier Lore Group, said the number of vacancies in hospitality were at an all-time high and the sector was struggling to keep up with demand.

He said: "A large proportion of the skilled EU workforce that kept hospitality thriving either left the UK or changed industry during the pandemic. The strict immigration rules that came with Brexit makes it difficult and expensive to hire from the EU, coupled with the distorted view in the UK that hospitality isn’t a viable career path."

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Recruitment pressures varied depending on sector, with 73% of construction sector firms surveyed faced difficulties in finding skilled manual or technical workers, whereas 70% of hospitality firms faced difficulties finding semi/unskilled workers.

Speaking to HR magazine, Harvey Francis, chief people officer at construction company Skanska, said competition for manual and semi-skilled workers from other industries such as online retailers, was the sector's largest challenge. 

He said: "Post-pandemic, there is greater people movement following a year or so where people were typically staying put. And of course, the ongoing unpredictability of rail travel and desire for greater flexibility. 

"These factors have caused people to stop and think about their lives. No surprise in any of this really.

"My belief is that things will start to return to a more normal position, but the early exit from the workforce of the over-50s is a structural change in the employment marketplace which will require a structural response in order to keep people working and attract back those who have left."

The research echoed a Glassdoor survey which found one in four job-seekers across all ages struggled to find a role which matched their skills and experience.

With a struggling economy, 22% of job-seekers also said they were worried about finding a job that supported the cost of living.

Alex Veitch, director of policy and public affairs at BCC, called on government to help employers with their recruitment issues.

He said: “The Apprenticeship Levy is unsuitable for many employers, and the BCC is calling on the government to introduce flexibility into the levy.

“This will ensure employers can support everyone in the workplace to get the training they need. In addition, we are calling for the T Level employer financial incentive to be reinstated to help firms offer more quality industry placements.”

Veitch said the burden of childcare was a major barrier to inactive workers re-entering the workforce.

He added: “Access to childcare must be simple and affordable; we would like to see the introduction of a flexible family childcare budget that can be used to the meet individual families’ needs.”

Investment in training remained low, with less than a quarter (24%) of firms reporting an increase in their investment plans over the last three months.

The BCC survey was formed from more than 5,600 businesses, 92% were SMEs.