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West Midlands employers experiencing pre-pandemic levels of vacancies according to HCR report

1st July 2024

Empty seats for a job interview

The West Midlands is suffering disproportionately from a national skills shortage, with one in four vacancies now classed as ‘hard to fill’. HCR Law has recently published a report reviewing the impact this is having on the region and how businesses can address these issues. The report looks at apprenticeships, adult education, bespoke training and niche skills to help companies upskill their way out of the West Midlands skills shortage.

The report, produced by the firm’s Birmingham office, who deal with a wide variety of businesses – combining their knowledge of the market with years of experience in the region – finds a local impact to the skills shortage in the West Midlands, with vacancies remaining above pre-pandemic levels. In order for businesses to combat this, it highlights the importance of stakeholders, educators and businesses working in partnership to ensure local labour is being upskilled to meet economic demand, and the importance of investing in apprenticeships.

The Federation of Small Businesses has found that 22% of small companies said a shortage of skilled workers would be a ‘stumbling block for growth in the upcoming year’ and 38% of ICT companies said they were struggling to find workers with the right skill levels.

The skills gap report suggests that looking to adult education may provide access to a skilled workforce. Omer Simjee, Employment Partner at HCR Law said: “Down the line, with adult education upskilling workers and creating gaps beneath, if the business grows then the bandwidth and capital for apprenticeships becomes available. As a gateway to enabling a more apprenticeship-positive future, as well as an immediate upskilling opportunity for incumbent staff, adult education is a strong contender to be a solution.”

Across the West Midlands, a third of people do not reach Level 3 qualifications by the time they’re 25, potentially affecting their ability to get a well-paid job. To combat this, West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) holds £167m annual funding devolved from central government for adult education and skills provision in the region, and funds hundreds of courses in sectors as diverse as health and social care, civil engineering, painting and decorating, electric installation and roofing.

The nine steps HCR Law has outlined in its report for West Midlands businesses to upskill their way out of the West Midlands skills shortage are for businesses to:

  • Complete a skills gap analysis
  • Identify ‘hidden gems’ in the workforce with the ambition to do more or something different
  • Prioritise the gaps which need filling
  • Facilitate and reward upskilling, through mentors and secondment opportunities
  • Create proper career planning, and help people get to where they want to be
  • Explore funding which reduces your financial burden
  • Explore technology – your skills gap might not need humans to use it
  • Support your staff if you’re asking them to do more
  • Review productivity: if something isn’t getting done, is there a skills gap or is there another reason it isn’t being done?

The full report is available to read here.

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