Chance for firms to shape future of skills in the region as shortages begin to hit

January 4, 2019

Bristol firms are being urged to take part in the region’s largest survey on skills shortages as the issue once again becomes one of the most critical factors for the West of England economy’s continued success.

The survey – conducted by Business West, the region’s largest business organisation – is being held as firms in the region cite skills shortages as one of the key barriers to business growth, according to the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). 

And the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), in its latest report, said more than four-fifths of UK manufacturers struggled to hire the right staff in the final months of last year.

That means they are facing the biggest shortage of skilled workers since 1989 due to record low unemployment and a huge decline in European workers heading to the UK ahead of Brexit.

Business West’s last Business Skills and Training Survey revealed that 52% of West of England businesses that tried to recruit in the previous 12 months found it difficult to fill vacancies with 68.5% blaming a low number of applicants with the required skills and qualifications.

Business West head of skills Nicky Williams, pictured below, said, in order for the economy to grow, skills within the workforce needed to be “drastically” improved at a regional and national level.

She said the latest survey gives businesses across the West of England an unprecedented opportunity to help shape the upcoming skills agenda of the region, enabling them to overcome longstanding recruitment issues and plan for the future.

“The skills shortage is prevalent across the country and this, coupled with our low unemployment rate in the West of England, can mean businesses really struggle to recruit the right staff for now and in the future,” she added.

“We need to make sure businesses understand all of the recruitment and training options available to them and make an effort to work with education providers to ensure future training provision is relevant to their needs.”

The survey, now in its third year, delves deeper into the skills, training and recruitment needs of all sizes of businesses, gathering intelligence that will help feed into the overall West of England Skills Strategy.

The West of England Skills Strategy is an initiative of LEP and the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) to ensure that education and training provision in the region is relevant to businesses and that it feeds into the wider local industrial strategy for the West of England

Responses will also assist in shaping 2019’s Local Sector Skills Statements, put together by the Skills West team at Business West. The statements present an overview of the sub-region’s industry sectors and strengths set against regional skills priorities.

Nicky Williams added: “The aim of the Skills West programme is to help to close the skills gaps and challenges in the region by providing a collaborative platform for business and training providers to work together.

“We want to ensure workforce skill levels are fit for the challenges of the future and the starting point for this is knowing exactly what specific challenges businesses are facing in each of their sectors and as a whole.”

The survey, which takes around 10 minutes to complete, is open to businesses in the Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire local authority areas.

Every company that completes the survey will also be entered into a prize draw to win a team experience day.

To take part in the survey, click


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