Widening recruitment pools and re-examining shortage occupation lists are just two suggestions from CBI plans to tackle a ‘perfect storm’ of labour shortages across the UK and protect the UK’s recovery from COVID, CBI President Lord Bilimoria, DL, CBE, will outline .

In a speech to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation’s (REC) Annual Conference, the crossbench peer will diagnose the root of current labour market shortages. Hauliers, hospitality, and food & drink are among the worst affected.

Lord Bilimoria will identify a combination of factors, ranging from the paradoxical effects of the job retention scheme to EU workers not returning to the UK amid the COVID crisis.

He will highlight the importance of training, reforming the Apprenticeship Levy, and creating new technical education routes into careers. Lord Bilimoria will also praise the role of the recruitment industry, which helps place over a million workers in employment, supporting £86 billion in gross value added to the economy. Amid news of lunchtime sittings at restaurants being cancelled owing to staff shortages, the crossbench peer will say action is needed now to bolster the UK’s competitiveness and growth potential. An adequate supply of staff is critical for securing the UK’s recovery.

Outlining the challenge from labour market shortages, Lord Bilimoria is expected to say:

“As the weeks go by, more and more businesses are re-opening. It’s fantastic.

“But as lockdown restrictions lift, we’re also seeing a surge in the demand for labour – and we know many businesses are already struggling to recruit.

“The latest REC/KPMG report shows overall candidate availability during the past quarter declined at its quickest rate since 2017.

“It’s a big challenge, not just for individual businesses, who can’t find the people they need, but also for our longer-term economic recovery.

“We’ve got a perfect storm of factors coalescing. During the pandemic, many workers from overseas left the UK to return home – hitting the UK’s hospitality, logistics, and food processing industries particularly hard.

“The UK’s immigration system is also a barrier to hiring people from overseas to replace those who may have left.

“Meanwhile covid has added major uncertainty. With some sectors locked down longer than others, experienced workers have moved to businesses that stayed open.

“Other people are understandably wary of changing jobs right now.

“And the furlough scheme ─ a lifeline, for millions of employers and employees alike, is becoming a strange paradox for policymakers.

“The more successful the Job Retention Scheme is – and it has been very successful so far – the smaller the talent pool for businesses, here and now.

“Together, all these factors pose a problem. Whether that’s in hospitality, where the shortage of chefs – already a problem pre-pandemic – is now even more acute.

“Or transport, where hauliers are desperately searching for more drivers.

“Or in food and drink, where a leading food supplier told us they’ve seen EU workers leaving during the pandemic – and despite offering apprenticeships, they can’t attract new workers to fill the gaps.

“And of course – on top of all this, the UK’s longstanding skills shortages haven’t gone away.”


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