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03 May 2022

Opening traditional industry jobs to women and new visas could help tackle acute recruitment issues, says East Midlands Chamber

New thinking from both businesses and Government is required to plug gaping staff shortages, says East Midlands Chamber’s HR lead as new research shows recruitment pressures are now at record levels.

Lucy Robinson, director of resources at the chamber of commerce for Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, wants policymakers to support firms with training incentives and more visas for skilled workers in certain sectors where employers are struggling to find staff.

But she also believes there are actions businesses can take to open themselves up to new sections of the labour market by offering greater flexibility, as well as creating an equality, diversity and inclusion policy.

It comes as the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) published its latest Quarterly Recruitment Outlook for Q1 2022, which showed almost four in five (78%) organisations that attempted to recruit reported difficulties in filling roles.

The survey of 5,500 businesses was drawn from chambers of commerce nationally, including East Midlands Chamber – whose latest Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) reported that 63% of the region’s businesses attempted to recruit in the first quarter of the year, and 80% of these reported difficulties.

Lucy said: “It’s now harder than ever for businesses to fill job vacancies and there are no signs of improvement, with our research showing no change between the final quarter of 2021 and the first three months of this year.

“In an increasingly tight labour market, competition for skills is ramping up wage costs, leaving many firms unable to recruit the people they need.

“When combined with the escalating price of energy, shipping, raw materials and other costs, it is a precarious situation for businesses. Inevitably, it is the smaller firms, with little in the way of cash reserves after two years of pandemic, that are most exposed to the risk all this presents.”

BCC Quarterly Recruitment Outlook findings by sector

The BCC’s research showed the hospitality sector faced the most challenging recruitment issues with 85% reporting difficulties, up from 83% in Q4 2021. This was closely followed by construction on 83%, logistics on 81% and manufacturing at 80%.

Retail and wholesale firms were the least likely to report difficulties at 69% but the proportions of firms unable to find the staff they need remains worryingly high.

East Midlands Chamber’s data showed both manufacturing and services-based businesses struggled to recruit, with 81% and 79% reporting difficulties respectively.

Why equality, inclusion and diversity strategy could help unlock potential

Lucy said: “It’s clear we need to bring more skilled foreign labour to plug skills gaps in certain sectors, so we’d like to see the Government coming up with visas that will make it easier for businesses that are now at capacity to recruit these people.

“Incentives for employers to invest in training people would also assist businesses to offer career progression opportunities they’d love to create, but are currently hamstrung by the escalating cost of doing business crisis.

“Greater flexibility has become one of the biggest demands from employees since the beginning of the pandemic. The sectors struggling most with recruiting people are arguably the least flexible by their nature and while they can’t offer remote working for large parts of their workforce, there are perhaps other tweaks firms can make such as offering part-time working.

“This would also help industries that traditionally have a high proportion of male workers to become more attractive to women, whose dormant potential could be a key driver to plugging some of these skills gaps.

“Providing greater accessibility for employees with a wide range of disabilities is another important area, and creating an equality, diversity and inclusion strategy that encompasses all these aspects would be a good starting point for any business struggling with recruitment.”