Skills shortages in 2023

As concerns surrounding skills shortages continue to increase across many industries within the UK and beyond, we asked Anthony Ball – our vastly experienced TA Training & Consultancy Manager – to break down the challenges facing recruiters in 2023…

Once upon a time, in the not-so-distant past, employers could, with reasonable confidence, discover the skills they sought within the existing population for their hiring needs.

But times have radically transformed, haven’t they?

A recent comprehensive report sanctioned by the Government, focusing on national skills shortages, unveiled a worrying trend. It articulated the distressing fact that “Businesses are experiencing considerable difficulty in recruiting employees possessing the necessary skills.” According to a survey conducted by the Federation of Small Businesses in August 2022, a staggering “80% of small firms encountered hurdles in recruiting applicants with suitable skills in the previous 12 months.”

The situation is further complicated by another alarming finding by The Open University. It estimated that “78% of UK organisations suffered a deterioration in output, profitability, or growth due to a lack of readily available skills.” To counteract this deficit, “52% of large organisations and 47% of SMEs have outlined plans to increase their investment in staff training over the next year.”

Examining this issue from a different perspective, we find ourselves in an era where the value of academic qualifications is being questioned. The Times recently reported that both “Conservative Ministers and Labour shadows are increasingly voicing support for prioritising skills over qualifications. They understand the pressing need to boost Britain’s flagging productivity levels and view skills as more crucial than degrees in meeting this challenge.”

Moreover, post-pandemic, there’s an echoing demand from employees for their employers to invest in their long-term development. That’s a positive development, isn’t it?

Or maybe not…

There still remains a significant percentage of organisations that are not planning to increase their investment in training next year. With my basic arithmetic skills, that’s 48% and 53%, respectively. This raises several questions. Are these organisations discounting the importance of training, learning, and coaching? Do they perceive their staff to be more productive at their workstations rather than spending a few hours learning managerial skills or enhancing their proficiency in software like Excel? Are they willing to risk losing staff to competitors offering better pay and development opportunities?

Is there a lingering apprehension that the value of traditional classroom training cannot be replicated in the virtual world? While I disagree with this sentiment, it’s worth examining. Yes, physical classrooms offer myriad benefits: participants can engage face-to-face and exchange ideas more naturally. But given our proficiency at conducting virtual meetings, why can’t we extend the same logic to training and learning?

Consider the advantages: no travel means no added expenses for the employer, and flexible timings ensure training is distributed in manageable chunks over weeks rather than a single gruelling day. Virtual training, when viewed from this perspective, appears to have numerous practical benefits.

If you’ve been thoughtful enough to read this far, you’re likely evaluating the state of your own workforce. Which employees are on the brink of leaving due to a lack of professional development? Do you have a dedicated budget for training? Are you aware of the skill gaps in your organisation?

At The Firm, our training services are incredibly focused. We aim to enhance recruiter capability and aid hiring managers in optimising their hiring processes. These are among the many business skills a modern worker needs to excel in 2023. You could argue that these are some of the most crucial skills: after all, without competent employees, you’re already starting on the backfoot.

Should you wish to delve deeper into this topic, reach out to me at for a chat!


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