Credit: Wilka Hudson

Skills gap hampers regional renaissance

The chancellor's ambitions to create northern boom towns may falter for lack of the right talent, says research.

by Jack Torrance
Last Updated: 19 Jun 2015

George Osborne says he wants to build a 'northern powerhouse' and has plegded to devolve greater power to city regions, but that could be under threat thanks to a shortage of skills, a new report claims.

The research by recruitment firm ManpowerGroup suggested that employers were keen to create new jobs but were struggling to find the right candidates. It found that employers in the north-west and north-east of England had above average hiring intentions but faced the biggest lack of talent – presumably as more and more skilled workers are drawn into London and the southeast like moths to a flame. That's despite the fact that, as was also revealed today, there are more jobs that permit flexible working up north.

'George Osborne may dream of a Northern Powerhouse, but the reality will be a northern power cut if we don’t see more talent coming into the market,'  said James Hick, managing director of ManPower Group Solutions.

'While many employers in the south can rely on a steady supply of workers, there are far fewer qualified candidates in the north. With a shortage of skilled trades, IT and engineering skills and employers looking to increase hiring in the coming quarter, skills shortages threaten to hamper business’ growth plans.'

The situation puts the Government in a difficult situation when it comes to delivering its policy pledges. Even if it can improve the education system to ensure the country is creating more workers with vocational skills, this will take years to bear fruit. At the same time it has promised to reduce non-EU migration substantially, which would seriously scupper some companies' ability to recruit the workers they need.

The prospect of a potential Brexit isn't encouraging either. 'Leaving the EU would threaten jobs and harm Britain’s prospects,' said Hick. 'Brexit would  create a vast amount of uncertainty and instability in the UK economy, making companies less willing to invest in new jobs and developing their staff. It would also reduce the flexibility of the UK workforce, with companies less able to attract talent from abroad.'


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