Shortage of skilled staff biggest growth obstacle for SMEs

Skilled staff shortages most acute in manufacturing, technology, telecoms and construction sectors

With 50% of small businesses with over five employees planning to grow their headcount over the next two years, finding skilled staff tops the list of challenges business owners face – up from third place in 2015 – according to a new report by Albion Ventures, one of the largest independent venture capital investors in the UK.
SMEs in the manufacturing industry reported the highest level of concern about finding skilled staff, followed by those in the technology and telecoms sector and construction businesses in third place. Finding unskilled staff has fallen to 15th place in the list of SME challenges.
According to Albion Ventures, this is the first time SMEs have identified a shortage of skilled staff as the biggest obstacle to growth, ahead of red tape and regulation ranked in second and third places in 2016.  Political uncertainty and leaving the EU were ranked in fourth and sixth place respectively suggesting that small business owners are most concerned with tangible obstacles to growth rather than those over which they have less control.
According to its fourth Albion Growth Report, which is based on interviews with 1,000 SMEs and sheds light on the factors that create and impede growth in post-Brexit Britain, the biggest skills gap reported by over a quarter (26%) of SMEs is marketing, followed by new technology (21%) and business planning (17%).  The smallest skills gap is in Financial Management with only 9% of small business owners reporting problems.
The technology skills gap is the widest in Scotland (34%) and London (25%). A quarter (26%) of businesses in the North East felt they lacked expertise in HR, the highest in the UK.
Patrick Reeve, managing partner at Albion Ventures, said: “A shortage of skilled staff shows that the growth pressures on the economy are at the most sophisticated end of the scale, which is precisely where we can expect to generate the biggest returns.  The economy is coming under capacity constraints at a time of considerable political uncertainty.
“Policymakers charged with deciding our post-Brexit future must recognise that many of the skills that enable us to compete in a fast-changing and increasingly competitive world are in short supply and our best chance of overcoming this challenge is by building on the UK’s first class reputation as a home for global talent.”


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Hannah Hamilton, who is a former Fife College student, is a reporter and assistant content editor for Scotland B2B, specialising in B2B news and features. She can be contacted via