Clifton Suspension Bridge

Although many of the UK's smaller businesses have taken steps to address the skills gap, the proportion of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) effected by it is likely to grow, according to Aldermore, the specialist lending and savings bank.

The bank said this means that firms should act now to tackle the skills gap if they haven’t done so already, in order to secure their future growth.

The warning has been issued in light of research conducted by the Bank, in conjunction with YouGov and CEBR, which found that only 29% of businesses reported that they are not suffering from a skills gap in their business. Medium-sized organisations were almost twice as likely as smaller ones to report a skills gap.

The report also reveals that 81% of the businesses who are suffering from a skills shortage have started to address it. At the same time, 39% of businesses reported that they will need to hire more staff to grow financially over the next five years.

Of the businesses who have implemented measures to tackle the skills gap, over four in 10 (43%) of firms have chosen to introduce additional training programmes for staff, highlighting that many employers prefer to update the skills of their existing workforce.

Other common measures introduced by companies to address the skills shortage include offering apprenticeships, a method used by three in 10 (31%) of businesses, and employing overseas workers with the right skills, which is a strategy adopted by over a quarter (26%) of firms.

Carl D’Ammassa, Aldermore’s Group managing director of business finance, said: “Companies currently affected by this issue are clearly working hard to address the skills shortage; however, as firms continue to grow and if the labour market continues to tighten, this issue will become even more pronounced and will affect an increasing proportion of businesses. This persisting issue will consequently harm business growth by eroding profit margins due to soaring employment costs, unless firms adopt robust measures to protect themselves against it.

“Firms must act now to introduce processes to reduce this risk in the long-term, regardless of whether they are currently facing a skills gap or not. Inaction now could come back to bite them in the future.

“Companies should think about how to retain skilled staff, organise succession for retiring employees and train people according to the company’s needs, in order to achieve their future growth aspirations.”