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Report warns of UK manufacturing skills shortage

A report, published by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (the UKCES), claims that a fifth of job vacancies in manufacturing firms in the midlands and the north west of England remain unfilled because of a lack of suitable candidates.

The UKCES canvassed opinion from 74,000 companies in England in preparation of its Employer Skills Survey 2011, which was published in May 2012. The survey revealed that the problem of 'skills shortage vacancies' has got worse only in mid-sized firms and recommends that the government should act to help them.

The report found that, while most jobs could be filled quickly, where skills shortages did occur, they sometimes caused significant difficulty to the firms concerned.

Nine out of ten mid-sized firms say that they are struggling to find suitable candidates for some key roles and some say that this may stop them from expanding. Economists fear that if these small and medium sized companies cannot get the vital staff they need, they will not be able to play their part in the hoped for economic recovery.

Neil McLean, a commissioner at the UKCES said 'There are worrying signs that the country is experiencing a skills 'squeezed middle', with a core nucleus of hungry, medium-sized firms finding it difficult to employ staff with the skills they need.'

Mr McLean called on policy makers to act to help these businesses to find the staff they need. 'As a group, these mid-sized firms are weathering the recession pretty well –indeed, they have continued to recruit over the past four years. They are undoubtedly our best hope for growth. Yet these businesses are often overlooked by policy makers in favour of entrepreneurial start-ups or huge multinationals.'

The UKCES made no specific call for a relaxation of the UK's immigration regime. However, the survey's finding seems to support claims made in 2010 by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development that the government's tightening of immigration policy would lead to a skills shortage. Gerwyn Davies of the CIPD said, in 2010, 'The abrupt introduction of a radical cap would leave many employers with a skills problem.'

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