Scots SMEs urged to tackle '˜persisting' skills gap

Small firms in Scotland need to act now to address the skills gap, new research has warned, after an overwhelming majority admitted to facing the issue.

Aldermore found a third of firms had introduced extra training for staff. Picture: TSPL
Aldermore found a third of firms had introduced extra training for staff. Picture: TSPL

Specialist lender Aldermore said 70 per cent of smaller businesses north of the Border admit to having a skills shortage in their business, with 45 per cent planning to hire more staff to grow over the next five years.

The research, conducted in conjunction with YouGov and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), found that 74 per cent of those experiencing a skills gap have taken steps to address it, while 33 per cent have chosen to introduce additional training programmes for staff.

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Carl D’Ammassa, Aldermore’s group managing director for business finance, said: “Scottish companies currently affected by this issue are clearly working hard to address the skills shortage.

“However, as firms continue to grow and if the labour market continues to tighten, this issue will become even more pronounced and will affect an increasing proportion of businesses.

“This persisting issue will consequently harm business growth by eroding profit margins due to soaring employment costs, unless firms adopt robust measures to protect themselves against it.

“Firms must act now to introduce processes to reduce this risk in the long-term, regardless of whether they are currently facing a skills gap or not. Inaction now could come back to bite them in the future.

“Companies should think about how to retain skilled staff, organise succession for retiring employees and train people according to the company’s needs, in order to achieve their future growth aspirations.”

The warning from challenger bank Aldermore, which earlier this month reported a year-on-year 18 per cent jump in business finance origination in the first quarter, came after YouGov figures published earlier this week found that just under half of SMEs north of the Border have sold their goods or services abroad, compared to the UK average of 60 per cent and London at 76 per cent.