Skilled staff shortages biggest issue facing UK small businesses today

With 50% of small business owners planning to grow their headcount, small firms in London and the South East are set to be hit hardest by the worsening skills gap

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The extent of the UK’s skills crisis has been highlighted in new research published today by Albion Ventures, which names finding skilled staff as the biggest challenge facing small businesses today.

The data, released in the fourth annual Albion Growth Report of 1,014 small firms, found that 50% of small businesses with over five employees plan to recruit more staff over the next two years, yet the majority believe the process of finding the staff they require will be a major obstacle to growth – ahead of red tape and regulation.

Other issues said to be worrying small firms – but far less than tangible obstacles like recruitment – include political uncertainty and Britain’s exit from the EU.

The report argued that the skills shortage will hit small firms in London hardest, followed by those in the South East and North West.

Small businesses are already struggling to source staff with marketing skills (named by 26% of small firms), new technology experience (21%), and expertise in business planning (17%).

On the flip side, businesses appear to be finding it easiest to hire staff with skills in operations – only 6% of small business owners reported problems in this area – alongside financial management (8%), R&D (9%), and HR (10%).

In addition, the report highlighted that finding unskilled staff has dropped in the list of business challenges; good news for small firms who are happy to train staff with the skills they need.

Albion Ventures managing partner, Patrick Reeve, said of the report:

“A shortage of skilled staff shows that the growth pressures on the economy are at the most sophisticated end of the scale, which is precisely where we can expect to generate the biggest returns. The economy is coming under capacity constraints at a time of considerable political uncertainty.

“Many of the skills that enable us to compete in a fast-changing and increasingly competitive world are in short supply and our best chance of overcoming this challenge is by building on the UK’s first class reputation as a home for global talent.”

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