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South West businesses struggling to hire workers with 'specialist skills'

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Written by: Admin | Posted 20 April 2018 16:01

South West businesses struggling to hire workers with 'specialist skills'

More than half (53 per cent) of SMEs in the South West expect sales to increase over the next three months – up from 43 per cent who felt the same in the previous quarter.

But skills shortages are a concern for businesses, according to the research by Bibby Financial Services.

More than a third (34 per cent) of companies in the region are struggling to hire people with specialist skills, while 32 per cent have had to pay existing staff more through fear of losing them. Both figures are higher in the South West compared to all other UK regions.

Nationally, confidence among the country’s smallest companies has rebounded to 2015 levels.

The number of SMEs expecting sales to increase between April and June jumped by 13 per cent, with half (50 per cent) expecting to see an increase, when compared with expectations for the first three months of the year.

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Edward Winterton, UK chief executive, for Bibby Financial Services said: “It is clear that even limited clarity over Brexit - and some compromise on behalf of both the UK and the EU following recent negotiations - has had a calming effect on SMEs.

“This has resulted in a marked increase in confidence, which is long overdue following two years of tumbling confidence and subdued investment.”

Despite rising confidence, more than two-fifths of SMEs (43 per cent) say that the uncertain economic environment in the UK and further questions surrounding Brexit are holding back investment over the months ahead.

Over a third (36 per cent) of business owners would back calls for Britain to remain in the single market and customs union, despite the Government’s pledge to leave both.

In a report by the House of Commons Exiting the European Union Select Committee released on 4 April, continued membership of the European Economic Area (EEA), including some free movement of people,  has been proposed should the Government’s final Brexit deal not meet 15 key criteria.

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Edward Winterton added: “With just under a year to go before the UK officially leaves the EU, SMEs are concerned about their ability to hire skilled workers both now and in the future.

"It is vital that UK PLC has clarity on this important issue sooner rather than later to enable investment to start to flow more freely again.

“While it is positive to see confidence return to the backbone of the economy, there are still underlying issues that could impact SMEs’ future investment and recruitment plans. The real learning here is how far a little Brexit progress can go in relation to small business confidence.

“Whatever comes of future Brexit negotiations, for now at least, it seems that SMEs are getting on with business, regardless.”

 

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