Business

Skills crisis deepens as over three quarters of employers cite recruitment concerns

The lack of a Stormont Executive is preventing skills reform in the north. Picture Mal McCann
Gareth McKeown

OVER three quarter of employers in the north do not believe they will be able to fill high skilled jobs in the future, according to a new survey from the CBI.

The latest edition of the annual UK education and skills survey has highlighted the growing skills shortage in Northern Ireland, with serious recruitment concerns laid bare by local firms.

Nearly 83 per cent of CBI members in the north anticipate a need for highly skilled workers over the next three to five years, but crucially over three quarters (76 per cent) of respondents are not confident of filling the roles.

Almost two thirds (65 per cent) of members also said they are experiencing, or are anticipating, difficulty recruiting individuals for apprenticeships.

Demographic pressures, a growing ‘brain drain’ of talent, plus a reliance on EU migrant labour are cited as unique regional challenges for local firms.

In order to tackle the growing skills shortage in the north employers believe action must be taken, with the promotion of STEM subjects, awareness of career options, and IT and digital skills cited as the top three priority areas within secondary schools.

Almost all of those surveyed (92 per cent) said they wanted to play a greater role in supporting schools/colleges.

There is also a call for government assistance to ensure employers have the right people with the necessary skills to help support economic prosperity and vital public services.

It is noted within the survey that other regions in the UK are investing heavily in skills reform to alleviate the issue, but the north is hamstrung by the lack of a Stormont Executive in effecting meaningful change.

Sam Davidson, group HR director at Henderson Group and chair of the CBI NI people and skills forum believes members are rightly worried about the availability of skills.

"Our competitors are investing in developing the skills of the future, we must do the same, otherwise Northern Ireland looks set to miss out on the people we need to transform our economy," he said.

“Every day without an Executive is an opportunity lost to address our skills challenges. We need to stop kicking the can down the road."

Noel Lavery, permanent secretary at the Department for the Economy added:

“Skills are central to the growth of the Northern Ireland economy. Building on the skills and strengths of our people will help deliver the twin goals of higher productivity and competitiveness. It will also contribute to greater social inclusion.

“We have started a formal engagement with key stakeholders to develop a new framework that will set an ambitious vision for our education and skills system to 2030 and beyond."

 

 

 

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