More than half fear worsening UK skills shortages - Business Works
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More than half fear worsening UK skills shortages

Peter Collis, MD elemense Half of key UK industries surveyed believe their sector is suffering a skills shortage – and even more expect the shortfall to get worse, according to research commissioned by elemense. According to the findings, the gap is seen as worst in the technical and engineering industries, with 57.7% overall identifying a problem in these compared to the next highest (26.6%) in professions such as finance or HR.

The research sought the opinions of 1100 respondents – from company leaders down – in the industries of finance and banking, construction, property, manufacturing, computing, engineering, public services, telecoms, utilities, environmental services and education.

The results reveal that 54.5% of respondents felt the lack of skills in science, technology, engineering and maths would only get worse over the next five years. The survey not only confirmed the anecdotal evidence which has been causing growing unease, but also highlighted regional variations and differences in attitudes depending on workers’ age, seniority and gender.

"The results come amid fears that the UK is slipping in its capacity to compete against global rivals," said Peter Collis, elemense MD. "This is particularly so in the technology and knowledge-based economy, as businesses and organisations find it increasingly difficult to find candidates with appropriate technical and engineering skills and experience."

He added, "This is being exacerbated by the shocking 68.8% who think the current generation of students do not have ‘robust attitudes and the right aptitudes to prepare for work in the knowledge-based and technology industries’."

Speaking on behalf of STEMNET – the national network that aims to increase young people’s choices through Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – regional networks manager for the South East Dr Ajay Sharman said, "It is no surprise that the survey has revealed a critical STEM skills shortage. STEMNET believes that by inspiring young people to study STEM subjects, more young people will develop the required skills to support the UK economy. To achieve this, we work with 25,000 STEM Ambassadors who volunteer as inspirational role models for young people, doing activities that explore the real-world applications of STEM subjects in school."

The most alarmed were respondents working in computing and electronics; 84.4% of whom believed there was a skills shortage. In engineering, 79.4% thought the same. There was also an implied criticism of education – with 45.4% pointing to education as having the greatest responsibility for training the next generation of engineers and technicians.

Regional findings

The overall pattern of about half reporting a skills gap was repeated around the country, but was highest in the West Midlands where the figure rose to 54.8%, compared to only 37.8% in East Anglia. The latter had a majority of 73.3% who felt that students had the right attitudes and aptitudes – in stark contrast with Wales where 80.4%.

Technical and engineering, as the worst-hit sector for skills nationally, appeared to be struggling most in the South East, where 68.3% believed there was a shortfall, followed by 66.7% in Northern Ireland.

Role levels and age

Company seniority also made a difference, with 60% of the highest-ranking respondents reporting a skills shortage, compared to 28.6% of the most junior. Of those top managers, 64.3% predicted it would get worse.

Older workers were much more pessimistic than their younger colleagues: among those aged over 54, 67.5% believed the skills shortage would worsen, compared to a slight minority of 49.6% of younger employees aged 18-24 in agreement.

Younger staff also put more emphasis on employers providing skills than the education sector with 42.1% holding that view, compared to only 30% of the over-54 age group, of whom 46.3% felt it was education’s responsibility.


Men were most concerned about the problems in technical and engineering, with 62.8% highlighting a skills gap – more than 10 percentage points higher than women at 51.9%.

Peter said, "We have been hearing reports from increasing numbers of our clients and industry leaders around the country about the UK’s skills shortage and this survey is evidence that these fears are not alarmist. One of the most concerning things is that a majority are predicting the situation will only get worse and is particularly bad in sectors such as engineering, where expertise is crucial to compete in high value, knowledge-based markets.

"Our country needs growth more than ever and without the skills to compete in key industries we are in danger of being left behind – with all the consequences that will bring for communities, jobs and investment. We hope others will follow us in calling on the government to give this challenge the utmost priority and take action now to ensure that the UK has the workforce for the future.

For more inforation on STEMNET, please visit: and for more information about elemense:

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