Recruitment headaches mount for West of England businesses as skills shortages show no signs of easing

July 5, 2024

Nearly seven in 10 West of England firms have struggled to recruit staff over the past three months, particularly for skilled manual/technical and professional/managerial roles, according to a major new survey.

Despite this problem, 79% of firms are looking to take on full-time workers and just under half are offering permanent positions, the latest Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) from Business West, the organisation behind Bath Chamber of Commerce, shows. 

The cost of employing staff is also the biggest issue facing firms in the region, according to the survey, affecting 66% of all businesses – up two percentage points on the results of the last QES.

Other key cost pressures for businesses are utilities (46%), raw materials (38%) and fuel (29%).

Meanwhile general economic conditions and business uncertainty remain the top concerns, mentioned by 62% and 51% of businesses respectively. And while worries about inflation eased slightly, it remained a significant issue for a quarter (25%) of respondents.

A significant number of comments made by survey respondents indicated that political events, such as elections and changes in government policies, were also major concerns for businesses – with this uncertainty impacting their confidence and planning. 

While firms’ confidence in their own prospects over the next 12 months remained relatively high at 57%, this was a fall of six percentage points on March’s results.

Confidence in the UK economy showed a modest improvement, with a net balance of minus 21%, compared to minus 26% in the second quarter results.

There was optimism about growth in turnover (52%) and profits (46%).

Business West director of policy Matt Griffith, pictured, said the findings underscored the ongoing recruitment challenges and capacity issues faced by businesses in the region.

“Addressing these concerns is crucial for enhancing productivity and growth in the region,” he added.

“Further focus on skills development and workforce planning could be instrumental in mitigating these challenges.”

He said the business landscape was also grappling with ongoing economic challenges and moderate optimism in specific areas.

“There is a slight improvement in confidence regarding the UK economy, but businesses still face significant uncertainties and pressures,” he added.

“However, the election outcome will at least bring businesses some certainty and a government that will set out an economic strategy for the next five years. This should help our businesses to plan.”

Comments are closed.


Reach tens of thousands of senior business people across the Bath area for just £75 a month. Email for more information.