Almost half of North East businesses have faced skills or labour shortages in the last year, but only a minority are actively looking overseas to fill vacancies, according to a survey released today, 13 September 2017, by the North East England Chamber of Commerce (the Chamber).

The annual workforce survey, based on the responses of over 1,400 business people across the UK, found that 45% of firms in the North East had faced skills or labour shortages over the last 12 months. Of these, most sought to address the shortages by increasing investment in recruitment (39%), training (32%), and pay and benefits (24%). The survey found that only 8% of businesses target recruitment of non-UK nationals overseas.

According to the findings of the survey, three in ten (30%) businesses in the North East have employees from other EU countries on their workforce, while 25% have employees from outside the EU. 22% of North East firms say future restrictions on the rights of EU nationals to work in the UK would have a negative impact on their business.

Other key findings of the survey are:

  • When trying to fill vacancies, North East companies are most likely to rely on word of mouth (49%) and using UK-based recruitment agencies (45%)
  • 42% of businesses receive job applications from EU nationals and 21% from non-EU nationals
  • Chamber members report that their non-UK workers tend to be highly skilled: 46% skilled manual/technical, 36% professional/managerial, 25% clerical/administrative and 11% un-/semi-skilled

Susan Laing, Dean of Teesside University Business School, said: “Teesside University has an established international reputation for academic excellence and the global impact of our research. We foster creativity, enterprise and innovation and have helped to shape the lives of students from over 100 countries worldwide. We welcome this report into the impact non-UK nationals can make to businesses in our region.

“The University is a catalyst for business growth, strategic partnerships and regional and national prosperity and we want to work with more global businesses to bring skills and opportunities to the region. We have recently launched our Centre for Professional and Executive Development (CPED) to help meet the region’s demand for thousands of skilled jobs and are working with employers across multiple sectors to design and deliver training which meets their demands and the skills needs of their workforce.”

Paul Carbert, policy adviser, North East England Chamber of Commerce, said: “Members report that skills shortages are prevalent across all sectors, particularly at higher and technical levels, and almost half of North East businesses say they struggled to fill vacancies in the last year. Our members look to fill posts locally, and many many invest in training and apprenticeships, or build links with educational institutions to recruit the staff they need. However, skills shortages remain, as competition for highly skilled staff grows within the UK and across the world.

“Many businesses in the North East benefit from having a diverse workforce with staff members from across the EU and beyond, and our 5 world-class universities provide an important boost for the region’s economy by attracting international students and research talent. Skilled overseas workers are often attracted to work for firms in the North East when they are already working in other regions of the UK, and any future restrictions will inevitably have a knock-on effect on our members’ ability to recruit the staff they need to facilitate growth.

“As the Government plans for a post-Brexit immigration policy, our members want to see a flexible and unbureaucratic system that allows businesses to access the best global talent. We will ensure that our members’ views are represented in the review currently being undertaken by the Migration Advisory Committee.

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