New research from the UK’s biggest employer body has revealed that that small and medium-sized firms are leading the way post-Brexit with a positive balance of 32% expecting to add jobs in the next 12 months.
However, the CBI/Pertemps survey also revealed that almost two-thirds of companies (64 per cent) viewed the skills gap as the top threat to competitiveness, while over half (58 per cent) said it was the biggest worry for the future.
The CBI’s deputy-director general Josh Hardie, said the overall figures, which showed a fourth consecutive year running of intended job growth, suggested a positive trend for UK businesses despite the shock of Brexit.
“With record employment levels, more people than ever are now in work and the strengths of the UK labour market look set to yield positive results over the course of 2017,” Hardie said.
“Businesses are 100 per cent committed to making the best of Brexit. However, this year’s survey does show a greater sense of concern about the UK’s long-term attractiveness as a place to create jobs. Getting our industrial strategy right and understanding what the UK’s future relationship with the EU will be, will help ensure that this worry does not negatively impact the future performance of the labour market.”
Some concerns post-Brexit
However, the report also found that “The pattern of optimism about the attractiveness of the UK as a business location found by our surveys in recent years has dropped away in the 2016 survey”. Half of firms (50%) believe the UK will become less attractive over the next five years, with fewer than three in ten (29%) expecting it to become a more attractive location
The biggest worries for the future are around access to highly skilled migrants (58%), skills gaps (58%) and access to sufficient labour to fill shortages (50%).
Elsewhere, 30% of firms plan to create more apprenticeships in 2017, with just 4% of businesses planning to cut back on apprentice recruitment in the coming year, giving a positive balance of +26% planning to increase their number of apprenticeship openings. This builds further on the expansion in apprentice hiring in earlier years.
The impact of the impending apprentice levy is also taken into account in the CBI/Pertemps research, which shows that many businesses are being forced to consider a decrease in the level of investment in non-apprenticeship training or rebadge schemes as apprenticeships as a result of the levy policy in its current form.
“The findings call into question whether the policy will lead to increased business engagement with apprentice-level training overall while driving up costs – and underline the need for a more flexible system,” the authors state.