Skills Shortages Continue To Blight UK SMEs

Small Firms Still Have Many Obstacles To Overcome


Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are finding it hard to hire skilled workers, a new report has suggested.

Conducted by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), the study revealed that start-up organisations are facing significant recruitment problems at the moment.

Around 15 per cent of the SMEs that took part in the Global Economic Conditions Survey said they were concerned about the lack of talented candidates applying for jobs.

Rosana Mirkovic, ACCA's head of SME policy, believes small companies in the UK could fall behind their counterparts in other parts of the world, particularly the US, if the issue is not tackled.

"15 per cent doesn't sound like much, but the fact is it barely registered as a problem with the small business communities elsewhere in the world. It is unique to the UK," she remarked.

A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development also raised concerns about the UK's dwindling talent pools.

In response, director of employment and skills for the Confederation of British Industry Neil Carberry claimed the country needs to review its education system and introduce vocational schemes that help youngsters develop skills that will benefit employers in the long run.

"This survey simply emphasises that the UK cannot afford to stand still on skills," he commented.

"Our economic future depends on raising skill levels so businesses are equipped with the talent they need to succeed and grow."

The ACCA and IMA report found that skills gaps are just one of many issues affecting British SMEs.

Despite recent improvements in the economy, many SMEs still feel they are struggling to obtain enough funds to allow them to expand. Cashflow was a particular concern for a lot of the survey respondents, with small businesses almost twice as likely to label late payments as a major problem than larger companies.

Ms Mirkovic said SMEs in the US have found it much easier to gain access to finance in the past two years, but UK-based enterprises are lagging behind.

Expert Opinion
Considering a number of studies in recent months have highlighted how confidence is rising among SMEs after a difficult couple of years in the economy, it is disappointing to see that some are struggling in terms of recruitment.

“If SMEs are going to achieve their potential in terms of growth, they will need to be able to expand by bringing in quality talent. Because of this, it is vital that the Government and the business world work together on new educational initiatives to ensure that growing businesses are able to find and recruit young people who have the skills they need.

“Having access to the all kinds of quality resources is vital to SMEs and it is also vital they ensure recruitment and staff policies in place are robust and meet all of their needs.”
Steven Beahan, Partner