A lack of trained workers could slow down the UK’s recovery from the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, recruitment experts have warned.
As they start ramping up businesses after the pandemic lockdowns, companies are struggling to fill positions.
Demand for new workers soared in May at its fastest rate since January 1998 as large parts of the economy started to re-open following months of lockdown.
New figures from auditing giant KPMG and the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) showed that employers are in the market for both permanent and temporary staff.
But many are struggling to find the right people. Amid a spike in demand not seen for 23 years, the supply of staff is contracting at its fastest rate for four years.
The reduction is partly due to uncertainty lingering after the pandemic, and a fall in candidates from the European Union after Brexit.
“With demand spiking, the skills and labour shortages that already existed in the UK have come into sharper focus – and Covid has only made them worse,” said REC deputy chief executive Kate Shoesmith.
“This is the most pressing issue in the jobs market right now, and has the potential to slow down the recovery.”
The study showed that demand for staff has shot up in all 10 job categories that the researchers monitor. The steepest increases were in IT and computing and hotel and catering.
The weakest increase was in the retail sector.
Cornelia Staeubli, a director at the Ottolenghi restaurant family in London, said that the company is struggling to find staff, especially in entry level positions.
“On all levels, front of house, back of house, waiters and chefs, it has affected us extremely, we did not expect that,” she said.
She said that following the impact of Covid, bosses had believed that it would be easy to find new recruits, but they were proven wrong.
“We are struggling, the managers spend most of our time just in recruiting, it’s been stressful,” Ms Staeubli said.
She said that lower paid kitchen porters were among the hardest to find. These are often jobs that new arrivals to the UK take while they improve their English before taking other jobs.
Earlier this week, the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) warned that its members were facing an “acute” shortage of staff as some furloughed workers left the sector and EU nationals did not return to the UK.
“In some instances pubs are having to reduce capacity or close entirely because they don’t have the staff to open,” said BBPA chief executive Emma McClarkin.
Michel Roux Jr’s Le Gavroche restaurant has pulled its lunch menu and will only be serving dinner due to a shortage of staff.
The Michelin-starred chef said the problems were due to “new Brexit regulations as well as there now being a major lack of well-trained hospitality professionals since the pandemic struck”.