Uncertainty reigns after the UK’s Brexit referendum, with long-term worries about staffing pipelines beginning to emerge.
A report into employment sentiment across hundreds of companies in the UK has found that more than two in five will expand their workforce in 2017, though the negative effects of exiting the EU are already surfacing.
Conducted by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and recruitment agency Pertemps Network Group, more than 350 companies representing 1.2m employees were surveyed for the report.
The pace of hiring is slowing in comparison to a similar survey conducted at the end of 2015 – though perhaps not at the rate many would have thought.
The slowdown, however, can be attributed to one of the primary concerns of Brexit: the employee talent pool drying up.
The report acknowledges that business confidence “is the foundation on which future investment, innovation and job generation is built”.
And that confidence is beginning to erode. Ongoing skills gaps ranked as the most commonly cited threat to competitiveness (64pc) and for a second year, topped the list of worries for the future (58pc).
While worries continue to grow about future access to skilled migrants as a threat to competitiveness (58pc), up from 31pc in 2015, almost as many of this year’s respondents (50pc) were concerned about access to non-graduate migrants needed to fill labour shortages in key sectors.
Governmental initiatives to maintain some form of free movement for migrants could therefore be an ironic priority for the UK decision-makers.
“Businesses need the confidence they can employ the right people at the right time,” said Josh Hardie, CBI’s deputy director general.
“They will continue to invest heavily in skills and training, working with the government to grow the skills base needed for a thriving economy. But having an immigration system that provides access to both skills and labour, whilst addressing the public’s concerns, is essential.”
Hardie thinks this “new phase” of EU relations will need acute management, with a “clear opportunity” in front of businesses and government to work together on a pathway to a better pipeline of talent.