Business leader calls for action on skills to support the recovery

The boss of one of Britain’s most influential business organisations has called on the Government to take action to make sure the UK’s economy does not stall because of labour shortages.

The Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) says business also has a part to play to keep the recovery going.

Tony Danker’s remarks come on the back of a raft of good news stories on the economy in terms of growth, increased job vacancies and a fall in unemployment.

He said the country needed  short-term fixes to spur recovery and long-term reforms to change our economic model.

To keep the recovery going he has set out priorities for both business and Government to guard against labour shortages and offered three immediate solutions which he says the Government can address now.

These include:

  • marrying skills policies to roles with the highest unfilled vacancies
  • adding greater flexibility to the Apprenticeship Levy
  • using the Government’s own skill-focused immigration levers to alleviate short-term pressures.

A lack of HGV drivers has dominated the headlines, but the challenge extends well beyond to include other skilled professions and has suggested using existing levers at the UK’s control – like placing drivers, welders, butchers and bricklayers on the Shortage Occupation List – could make a real difference

Mr Danker is also urging businesses to play their part on long-term productivity reforms by continuing to invest in training, automation and digital transformation, together with doing more to attract and retain staff from a diverse talent pool.

Mr Danker said: “Labour shortages are biting right across the economy. Other European countries are also experiencing staffing shortages as their economies bounce back. In the UK, many overseas workers left during the pandemic affecting sectors including hospitality, logistics and food processing. And new immigration rules make replacing those who left more complex.

“Building a more innovative economy – coupled with better training and education – can sustainably improve business performance, wages and living standards. But transformation on this scale requires planning and takes time.

“The Government’s ambition that the UK economy should become more high-skilled and productive is right. But implying that this can be achieved overnight is simply wrong. And a refusal to deploy temporary and targeted interventions to enable economic recovery is self-defeating.”

The CBI says it speaks on behalf of 190,000 businesses which employ seven million people, about one-third of the private sector-employed workforce.

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