28 July 2017

  |  CBI Press Team

Press release

Scottish businesses struggling to fill high-skilled roles

Results from the latest CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey for Scotland. 

Scottish businesses struggling to fill high-skilled roles

Only one-third of Scottish businesses are confident of being able to source the high-skilled workers they need for the future.

Yet according to this year’s CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey, more than three quarters of Scottish firms (77%) expect to increase their number of high skilled roles in the coming years.

The UK-wide survey of 344 companies, which included 120 firms that operate in Scotland, found that 59% lacked confidence in their ability to fill these roles and that demand looks set to outstrip supply.

Careers advice was cited as a particular worry with 91% of Scottish firms believing existing advice for young people is not good enough - higher than the overall UK figure (84%). With 87% of firms having some links with schools and/or colleges, 82% of firms polled said they are willing to play a greater role in supporting schools and colleges in improving careers advice.

Asked about the impact of the introduction of the £2 billion UK-wide apprenticeship levy – which firms in Scotland pay but cannot at present access funds from to support training programmes – almost a third (30%) have said they will have to decrease graduate recruitment.

Scottish companies also reaffirmed their commitment to developing talent and investing in their people. 91% of Scottish businesses indicated they had no plans to reduce staff development and 30% aim to expand on existing provision. 89% already have a learning and development strategy and 83% of firms intend to maintain their dedicated training and development budgets.

Hugh Aitken, CBI Scotland Director, said:

“The recent welcome news about Scottish GDP growth couldn’t have come at a better time. While we should all remain cautiously optimistic, it’s vital that both business and government refocuses its attention on one of the key drivers of productivity: education and skills.

“It’s encouraging to see that so many Scottish firms plan to hire into highly-skilled roles, but the fact both this survey and the CBI’s recent ‘Pursuing Prosperity’ report shows that this isn’t being matched by a supply of talent is something we need to address urgently.

“With many firms identifying a person’s attitude as the most important factor when recruiting school and college leavers, we need a dual focus on academic achievement and the wider behaviours young people need to succeed.

“Improving attainment, creating more high quality vocational options for young people and further increasing business interaction with the education system must be top priorities. We also need to ensure that the post-Brexit immigration system allows businesses in Scotland access to the skills and labour they need to grow.”

Rod Bristow, Pearson’s President, UK and Core, said:

"Scotland's education system needs to better meet the needs of Scottish business. This year's report shows that now, more than ever, Scotland requires a coherent education system that delivers high quality and flexible options for everyone to keep learning; one that makes the most of our talent and bridges the gap from education into employment. Let's not forget, we need career focused routes for technologists, as well as job focused routes for technicians."

On the Apprenticeship Levy, Hugh Aitken said:

“Scottish firms are committed to investing in skills but the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy has fundamentally impacted business’ ability to train people.

“With a lack of coherence across the UK systems and no ability for Scottish-based companies to draw on their levy funds, it’s worrying to see that one of the consequences is that almost a third of firms saying they will be forced to cut back of graduate recruitment to meet the costs.

“Now is the time to get the Flexible Workforce Development Fund right and firms are keen for further details on how it will operate and who will be able to access it. If this fund proves successful, firms would like to see a greater share of levy money allocated to it in the future

“That’s why CBI Scotland recently wrote to the Minister for Employability and Training to ask him to provide further information as a matter of urgency.”

On business-education interaction, Hugh said:

“It’s encouraging to see an increase in the number of firms that have links with schools and colleges. We’d like businesses to go even further and for more firms to proactively seek opportunities to improve engagement with the education system.

“Giving young people first-hand experience of the world of work not only helps them to make better choices, it also helps them attain the breadth of work-based skills they need to fulfil their potential, whatever career path they choose.”

On careers advice, Hugh said:

“Careers advice is a particular challenge for businesses in Scotland and across the UK. It’s not just good advice that young people need. It’s early exposure to the workplace and a better understanding of the educational and career pathways that are available to them.

“With an overwhelming number of Scottish companies expressing an interest in being more involved in the careers advice space, this is an area where business can and wants to play an increasingly central role.”