Firms in the engineering sector are bracing themselves for a skills shortage among their workforce as they look to take on more staff in the future, according to the Close Brothers Business Barometer, a quarterly survey of UK SME owners and senior management from a range of sectors.
Over two thirds (68%) of the engineering sector businesses surveyed believe there is a skills gap in their sector, although over a quarter (26%) believe they won’t have any problems in recruiting adequately skilled staff in the future.
The results also revealed that there is a clear split between those SMEs in the engineering sector who do not believe there is a skills shortage among current employees (51%) and those who believe that there is (40%).
Of those firms who believe that there is a skills shortage, 40% have invested in staff training to help fill the skills gap but think their employees still lack the skills they need. Further investigation of the figures shows that over two fifths (44%) have considered training but can’t afford it, with a further 16% believing that training for existing staff members isn’t the answer.
Commenting on the figures, Steve Gee, Managing Director of the Industrial Equipment Division at Close Brothers Asset Finance, said: “It makes for encouraging reading that 84% of firms in the engineering sector have either already invested in training or have recognised it as the solution to the skills gap issue.
“However, it’s important to understand that there are a complex range of issues at play in the sector, with businesses at the smaller end of the market feeling the problem most acutely. 71% of SMEs with a turnover of less that £500k are telling us that they are facing a skills shortage.
“And while it is commonly understood that staff training can help firms retain their best employees, this is not always possible because of cost pressures. When competing for a limited pool of talent, it’s often the smaller firms that lose out because they are unable to offer the same salaries, benefits and working conditions that the larger players are able to.
“The most positive aspect of the results is that SMEs across the board understand the importance of training to not only improve their own prospects, but as a mechanism for staff retention; personal development and the safeguarding of jobs in this key industry.
“As a business, we have a long-established commitment to supporting SMEs, and with the support of the University of Sheffield AMRC Training Centre and the Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA), launched the Close Brothers SME Apprentice Programme in 2015. The programme helps SMEs recruit and train a new generation of advanced engineering workers, and under the scheme, we are helping to pay for 20 apprentices to learn their skills at the AMRC Training Centre."