How to reduce the UK skills gap

The UK skills gap has been rumbling in the background for some time. 

But at the end of last year, skills shortages reached critical levels, and companies across the UK were finding it harder than ever to recruit the skills they need.  

You only have to look at the UK shortages list to see the scale of the problem. Almost every sector is affected by the skills gap – from plumbing to paediatrics. But the worst hit industries are engineering, healthcare and construction who are crying out for skilled workers.  

How did this happen?  

The shortage came at the same time as the UK’s unemployment rate hit 4.3%  – the lowest rate for 42 years. It means more people are in jobs and employers have to fight for the workers they need – offering higher salaries to attract skills and raising wages for existing employees to stop them leaving for better offers elsewhere. 

Brexit is also affecting the UK skills gap. The fall in the value of the pound and increased job uncertainty has stopped people taking risks – more employees are staying in their jobs and businesses are reluctant to invest.  

For many engineering firms, productivity is down and prices are up, so paying more for skilled workers is not ideal. In fact, according to a recent Open University poll, the skills shortage is costing British businesses around £2 billion a year in recruitment costs, elevated salaries and lack of productivity.  

So what’s the solution? 

Other than hiking up salaries to attract skills from overseas, businesses need to develop skills in-house – either by training new recruits or upskilling existing staff. Apprenticeships are the perfect way to do just that. Apprentices learn on-the-job so they’re an asset to your workforce from day one. You can teach them the exact skills they need for the role and mould them to your way of working. Plus, if you’re a levy-paying employer, training costs are already paid for.  

Apprenticeships are great for everyone. Businesses can use them to develop the skills they need… they’re a fantastic opportunity for young people to learn a trade… and they’ll help close the UK skills gap.  

Apprenticeships are the answer, which is why the UK Government launched a series of apprenticeship reforms last year – from employer-designed standards to the apprenticeship levy. Anne Milton, UK skills minister, said, ‘This Government has already taken action to create a world-leading education system, regarded as highly as our world-class universities. That’s why we’re changing our apprenticeship system and have doubled investment in apprenticeships to £2.5 billion.’ 

At OneFile, we’ve been pioneering apprenticeships for decades and know the huge impact they have on businesses and individuals. That’s why this year, we’ve made it our mission to shape 1 million people’s futures by 2020 – and you can help. 

There’s never been a better time to hire an apprentice. There are more courses available, more funding available and employers have more control than ever before. It’s a no brainer. If you’re struggling to find the skills you need, hire an apprentice and train them in-house.  

Ready to get going?  

Download our free guide to find out everything you need to know about hiring an apprentice – from how to recruit, how to deliver, how to fund and how to make apprenticeships easy.  

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