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Skills shortage epidemic threatens business growth prospects

Skills shortage epidemic threatens business growth prospects 

Businesses around the world are reporting a skills shortage epidemic that is weighing on growth prospects, according to new research from the Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR). Almost four in ten (39%) businesses around the world are struggling to recruit the right people, with a lack of technical skills cited as the primary problem (64%). The concern is that a lack of talent will dampen business productivity, ultimately threatening future growth and profitability.

Paul Raleigh, Global leader of growth at Grant Thornton International, said: “With unemployment running so high in many mature economies, it is somewhat ironic that business leaders are concerned by a lack of skills. In the short-term they will need to plug these skills gaps with people from outside the organisation as best they can. But in the longer-term they need to invest in their internal training programmes to mould the people that will help them deliver on strategy, innovate and ultimately grow.

“A business is nothing without its people. A great team with an average plan will be far more successful than an average team with a great plan. The best people increase productivity, save an organisation time and money and ultimately grow the business. So in the long-term, business leaders need to be confident that their own training programmes will be able to deliver talent sustainably.”

The reported shortage of technical skills is as much an issue in developed as emerging economies. It is cited by 61% of the BRIC businesses and 65% of their peers in the G7. A lack of both work experience (56%) and qualifications (54%) are also mentioned. One in four business leaders (21%) cite restrictions on immigration.

The impact of these workforce issues on business growth prospects is evident: the IBR reveals that more than one in four businesses (28%) expects their 2013 expansion plans to suffer as a result of skills shortages, rising to more than one in three in the BRIC economies (36%). This has dropped from 35% globally pre-financial crisis when employment levels were much higher – particularly in mature economies.

Paul Raleigh added: “We have seen some evidence of improved dialogue between educational institutions, governments and business leaders but this research should give fresh impetus to their discussions. There is clearly a disconnect when, on the one hand, business leaders are crying out for more skilled labour, and on the other, swathes of unemployed people are crying out for a job.

“The situation amounts to a huge waste of human capital, which is good for neither businesses nor the unemployed. Ultimately economic growth suffers: businesses are constrained from expanding and people without work don’t have sufficient income to create demand for products and services – it’s a vicious cycle. Efforts to boost skills should be high on the public policy agenda.”

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