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Report shows Welsh businesses suffering from skills shortage

According to The Open University’s annual business report published in partnership with the Institute of Directors, employers in Wales are facing a skills shortage when it comes to hiring talent.

The Open University’s annual Business Barometer 2021 report reveals 67 per cent of organisation leaders in Wales are struggling with recruitment as candidates lack specialist skills and relevant experience. In fact, almost two thirds (62 per cent) of Welsh businesses say there is a skills shortage in their organisation as Covid-19 has made it harder to hire people with the right skills.

But even with the recruitment challenges of the last year, 65 per cent of Welsh bosses say they plan to increase their workforce over the next 12 month, boosting the job market further.

Despite the challenges associated with hiring entry level talent, more than half (60 per cent) of Welsh businesses believe that apprenticeships and work-based learning are critical to their long-term success with 48 per cent saying they will increase training budgets to help upskill existing staff to fill vacancies and plug the skills gap.

Since 2018, the OU in Wales has offered a degree apprenticeship in Applied Software Engineering. The course gives apprentices the training they need to work in software engineering, while earning a salary at a Welsh employer.

Based on a survey of 1,500 senior organisation leaders including 225 from Wales, The Business Barometer report is a temperature check on the UK’s business landscape across a multitude of different nations, regions and sectors. The report reveals that 41 per cent of Welsh businesses failed to meet growth targets last year because of the skills shortage and that going forward, upskilling staff and attracting and retaining talent remains a priority with more than three quarters (71 per cent) placing a firm emphasis on improving diversity and inclusion.

Lynnette Thomas, Deputy Director for Strategy and Development at the OU in Wales said:

“This report demonstrates that business leaders in Wales are finding the recruitment of specialist talent to be particularly challenging. It’s a long-term challenge and one that we can address in Wales by investing in their own employees to meet business objectives. While it is worrying that more than half of the companies we spoke to have reported a skills shortage, it’s also encouraging that so many are also looking at training staff as the solution. As we slowly begin to emerge from the pandemic, now is the perfect time to invest in all kinds of learning, not only to help people upskill and reskill but also to help businesses, society and the economy recover.”

The survey reveals over half (60 per cent) of Welsh business leaders believe unfilled vacancies overextend their workforce with over a third (37 per cent) say they have left a position vacant due to not being able to find an appropriate candidate, while 33 per cent have introduced new training to existing employees.

Kitty Ussher, Chief Economist at the Institute of Directors highlights: “This year’s Business Barometer demonstrates the huge impact that both the pandemic and Britain’s decision to leave the European Union have had on recruitment at all levels; over six in ten firms now say they have a skills shortage. On the plus side, we are also seeing optimism around the potential for remote working to fill skills gaps and an appreciation of the role of apprenticeships to train tomorrow’s workers. We’re asking the UK government to put lifelong learning, retraining and upskilling at the heart of their forthcoming Budget so that firms and individuals alike can fully take advantage of the massive opportunities that are available as our economy recovers and restructures.”