Call for temporary immigration ‘safety valve’ to address acute NW skills and labour gaps

Daphne Doody-Green
X The Business Desk

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The professional body for HR and people development has called on the Government to tackle the acute labour and skills shortages in the North West.

The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) wants the UK to introduce short-term interventions on immigration policy, along with reforms to skills policy and provide effective support for businesses.

A new report by the body found that 38% of organisations in the North West are finding it hard to fill vacancies, despite 70% looking to recruit over the next three months. It also identified that jobs in many low paid sectors across the UK are facing acute talent shortages, including hospitality (51%) and health and social care (49%).

The CIPD’s report ‘Addressing skills and labour shortages post-Brexit’, is based on a survey of more than 2,000 employers in low paying sectors and focus groups. It calls on the Government to tackle the region’s labour crisis and ongoing measures to reverse two decades of under-investment in skills, through three key measures:

  • Introduce a temporary job mobility scheme for young EU nationals to act as a ‘safety valve’ to ease immediate, acute labour shortages.
  • Reform the Apprenticeship Levy to create a broader, more flexible training levy to boost employer investment in skills.
  • Provide £60m to fund a business improvement consultancy service via the Growth Hub network to help more firms invest in new technology and improve their people management and workforce development capability.

Daphne Doody-Green, head of CIPD Northern England, said: “The Government’s ambition to level up the North and create a thriving economy, that is less reliant on migrant workers, will be undermined unless there are short term interventions on immigration policy, along with effective support for businesses, to tackle the labour crisis.

“We also urgently need pioneering reforms to skills policy and the training landscape to ensure everyone, no matter where they live or their background, can gain the skills they need to progress in work at any stage of their lives.”

Where employers in the North West are acting to address hard-to-fill vacancies, the CIPD report found the most popular planned response is to upskill existing staff (40%). Other responses included raising wages (25%), hiring more apprentices (21%) and making a greater effort to recruit older people (15%).

Daphne Doody-Green added: “This report highlights several challenges that employers in low pay sectors face in attracting and retaining staff, including not having the resources or capability to respond to labour shortages.

“Those with recruitment difficulties also don’t always realise the benefit of widening their search and reaching out to under-represented groups such as older workers and returners to work.

“We hope that the upcoming Chancellor’s spending review recognises the need for improvement in the quality and availability of business support, to pave the way for greater investment in skills and labour shortages over the longer term.”