More than half of SMEs are concerned that skills gaps could impact their operations

Posted By: Close Brothers Commercial Finance

28th Apr 2022

Half of businesses in the UK and Ireland do not feel confident about being able to recruit skilled staff, research by Close Brothers Commercial Finance has revealed.

The Close Brothers Business Barometer survey, which 900 senior business decision makers responded to, found that 56% are concerned that skills gaps could prevent them from finding adequately skilled staff. 

Across Ireland and the UK, 39% of SME decision makers are worried about skills shortages in their sector and 17% are concerned about gaps in their region. 

Transport and haulage companies are most likely to be worried, with 69% saying that available skillsets do not match with the expertise they require employees to have. Those working in manufacturing (67%), construction (64%) and engineering (64%) had similar apprehensions. 

In the Republic of Ireland, firms were more likely to be focussed on skills gaps than those in Northern Ireland. A fifth (19%) of SMEs in the Republic of Ireland said they were concerned about local shortages of expertise compared with 6% in Northern Ireland.

SMEs have considered training existing staff to bridge the gap. Two fifths have already invested in training but say they still lack the skills they need, while 29% report that they cannot afford to provide the necessary training. 

Paul Stephens, Head of Corporate & ABL at Close Brothers Commercial Finance, said: 

“Employees sit at the heart of a business, so ensuring you have the right people in the right places is vital for success. It is therefore important to address skills and labour shortages to ensure businesses can meet their goals and grow.

“While changes must be part of a bigger picture, investing in retraining programmes and upskilling staff can help SMEs, but businesses often need working capital access to make sure such schemes are available.”