The UK education system is more of an obstacle for high-growth companies in filling jobs than the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, a survey of small firms has found.
A skills shortage is the main worry for almost half the companies questioned by private equity firm ECI Partners, which in July and August surveyed 346 so-called “gazelles” – companies growing by at least 5pc a year and with turnover of between £10m and £200m.
Just under half (48pc) blamed Britain’s schools – saying they put young people off entering their industry or produced students with poor writing skills – while 22pc pointed the finger at Brexit for making it harder to attract EU workers.
“Ultimately it’s about the UK education system, but that is long term,” one respondent said. “Short term is difficulty attracting from overseas because of uncertainty.”
Others said they were having to hire unqualified people and train them on the job, while a shortage of specialist skills was driving up salaries in some sectors. The country’s skills gap is costing UK businesses more than £2bn a year as they cough up for higher salaries, recruitment costs and temporary staffing to fill empty seats, the Open University said last month.
Despite fears over a skills shortage, ECI Partners says the companies are confident they will maintain their high rates of growth. Half of those surveyed expect to see turnover grow by 20pc or more – the most since ECI began polling companies in 2010.
While many are benefiting from a cheap pound, concerns over the longer-term impact of Brexit remain. Almost two thirds fear a recession in the UK, while a quarter are concerned EU trade negotiations will go against them.
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