Sara’s Blog: Survey highlights difficulties in recruiting and a widening skills gap

A shortage of skilled workers and firms facing an uphill battle to fill vacancies have been making headlines for many months, but unfortunately the problem isn’t going away.

New figures released this week by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) saw the proportion of firms struggling to recruit staff reach new record levels. The data for the BCC’s Quarterly Recruitment Outlook survey for Q4 2021 was drawn from a survey of over 5,400 businesses.

Key survey findings indicate that:
• 4 out of 5 (79 percent) firms that attempted to recruit are facing difficulties in finding staff
• Hospitality and construction firms are most likely to report difficulties but all sectors have significant issues
• Firms cite major issues arising from lack of foreign nationals to recruit as well as disruption due to Covid

Attempted recruitment in Q4 was up on previous quarters with 64 percent overall attempting to recruit staff (61 percent in Q3). However, the proportion of firms reporting difficulties filling roles reached a historical high at 79 percent, up from 77 percent in the previous quarter.

In both the construction and hospitality sectors the proportion reporting difficulties was 83 percent, making them the most likely to report issues.

Marketing and media firms were the least likely to report difficulties at 70 percent, however this remains a high proportion for these sectors historically.

The survey echoes concerns raised by Staffordshire firms and issues discussed at the Chambers’ HR Employment & Skills Forum. Firms reported a broad range of issues which contributed to the overall recruitment squeeze – this included disruption due to Covid and a drop in the availability of foreign staff.

The results highlight the ongoing difficulties employers are facing in accessing skills and labour and the risk to our economic recovery.

The record level of firms struggling to fill job vacancies in the quarter will have impacted on businesses’ ability to meet demand for goods and services – adding to already acute supply chain pressures.

And now, as the Omicron variant begins to increase staff absences again, many firms could see any growth and recovery they have made slip back to first base.

More business investment in home grown talent – and creating a more inclusive and diverse workforce – is key to solving pervasive skills shortages, but this won’t happen overnight. Burdened with high levels of debt, escalating wage and input costs, damaged cashflow and an uncertain economic environment, employers need help to get back on their feet.

The Chamber movement will continue to pressure the government to do all it can to ensure people can access rapid retraining opportunities for in-demand jobs, issue temporary visas for lower skilled jobs – where there is clear evidence of a national shortage – and ensure there are no further upfront costs on business for the remainder of this parliament.

One way to mitigate the shortage of labour is to re-skill the workforce and we are fortunate to have the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Skills Hub based here at the Chambers of Commerce. Members of the Skills Hub team match companies with relevant approved training for which it provides funding of 48 percent of the cost up to a maximum of £5000.

It has helped businesses of all shapes and sizes and training has never been more relevant than it is now as we look to recover from the pandemic and whilst businesses come to terms with new working models requiring new skills.

The process starts with a skills review. During this review they can identify how a business can be improved through specialised training and then help to find and fund that course.

Businesses can also apply for funding for any bespoke course not currently funded elsewhere. Training such as CRM courses, accountancy courses, specialised engineering courses and training on specific business machinery are all included.

For more information and to find out how you can benefit from the funding businesses should call the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Skills Hub on 0300 600 1066 or visit

If you want to talk to us about any business issues, including funding, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002 or email:

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