Worsening Brexit skills shortage must be tackled, report warns

UK employers are finding it increasingly hard to recruit staff after available candidates fell to their lowest numbers in more than a year, according to a new report that blamed Brexit for worsening skills shortages.

Even before Britain leaves the EU’s freedom of movement zone, UK firms are reporting shortages across more than 60 roles, including care workers, accountants, engineers and computer specialists.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC)’s latest monthly jobs market snapshot showed job vacancies for permanent and temporary roles continued to grow in April, though at slower pace than March. Empty job vacancies have now reached their highest levels for 16 months.

REC chief executive, Kevin Green, said: “Demand for staff is growing within all sectors and all regions of the UK, but there are fewer and fewer people available to fill the vacancies.

“We have the lowest unemployment rate since 2005 and people already in work are becoming more hesitant about moving jobs amid Brexit uncertainty. Meanwhile, the weakening pound and lack of clarity about future immigration rules is putting off some EU nationals from taking up roles in the UK.”

He added: “As a result, candidate availability is at a 16-month low and recruiters are flagging a shortage of suitable applicants for more than 60 different roles from cleaner to accountant. Every shortage has wider implications, for example the exceptional reputation UK engineering enjoys globally is at risk because employers can’t find people with the skills they need.”

Green said June’s newly elected government must tackle the skills shortage by investing in training as well as ensuring that firms could still access foreign workers after Brexit.

He said: “One thing is for certain, if British business is to thrive then whichever party forms a government after 8 June needs to address the ever-shrinking pool of suitable candidates by investing in skills and career advice for UK jobseekers, as well as safeguarding access to the workers we need from abroad. It is vital that the future immigration system is agile enough to reflect and adapt to evolving labour market needs.”