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Gloucestershire Business News

Hiring: the headache remains, says trade body

Four fifths of businesses are hitting a brick wall when recruiting staff, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has warned today.

And the message has been echoed by a key Gloucestershire employer who has told Punchline that businesses in the county are struggling over the issue.

Hospitality and manufacturing are bearing the brunt of the issue, with six in ten businesses (59%) currently engaged in trying to source staff.

These BCC findings – of which 92% of feedback came from SMEs – have prompted the body which represents the interests of employers that provide six million UK jobs to call upon the government to co-operate on skills training and investment, while also making urgent changes to the Shortage Occupations List (SOL).

In its Quarterly Recruitment Outlook (QRO), more than 5,000 UK firms of all sectors and sizes were surveyed by the BCC – and results show businesses still face a hiring headache.The first quarter results for 2023 show recruitment difficulties fell to 80% – just 2% from the record high level of 82% in Q4 2022.

Jane Gratton, head of people policy at the BCC, said: "People shortages are a massive issue and employers can see little sign of improvement. The high number of unfilled job vacancies is damaging businesses and the economy. Firms are struggling to fulfil order books and turning down new work.

"While investment in training is part of the solution, it is being held back by rising overall cost pressures and a lack of time and resource at firms to mentor and support new recruits."

And with no "quick fix" employers and the government must work together to find solutions, she added. While firms can do more to make workplaces more flexible and jobs easier to access, the government must redouble its efforts to encourage and help people into work.

"Support for parents and carers, older workers and those with health issues will be crucial. At the same time, where there is evidence of urgent and critical skills shortages that are crippling business sectors, the government must adopt a sensible and pragmatic approach to immigration and ensure that the Shortage Occupations List reflects the reality on the ground."

Recruitment pressure points vary across sectors, the BCC says. For firms who struggled to recruit in the construction and engineering sector, 71% faced difficulties in finding skilled manual/technical workers. But for hospitality businesses that struggled to recruit, 64% faced difficulties in finding semi/unskilled workers.

Overall, 67% of businesses say labour costs are a source of inflationary pressure, with a similar number (66%) worried about energy costs. Concerns around labour costs are highest in manufacturing (76%).

One unnamed employer told BCC: "We are desperately short of semi/unskilled workers. We could increase business by about 20% if we could employ, and that in turn would bolster the taxation into the government. We are turning away work as we are struggling to meet current requirements with the staff we have."

In Gloucestershire, Steve Ireland, operations director for Badham Pharmacy – Punchline's 64th biggest employer with 202 staff across 22 outlets – says the BCC's call for action is timely.

Mr Ireland said: "Every business is struggling. In order to get the right people, we are bringing in unqualified people and training them up, but it is not easy. Fortunately for pharmacy, that skill is on the Shortage Occupations List, but practically speaking, it is actually easier for us to get people from within the existing UK pool, licence-wise."

Despite a tough HR landscape, Mr Ireland says Badham will add a new pharmacy story to its existing Gloucestershire presence next week, bringing the total to 23, when it takes over management at 94, High Street in Tewkesbury. 

The site is currently run by LloydsPharmacy, which recently announced a list of closures that include in-store sites at Barnwood and Gloucester Quays, as well as its Wotton-under-Edge community outlet.

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