Manufacturing, Retail and Services are the top three largest industries in Britain and according to the latest Lloyds Bank ‘Business in Britain: Manufacturing’ survey which represents the views of 1500 SMEs, 88% of these companies report a skilled worker shortage in their business.  As the ninth largest manufacturing nation in the world, representing more than 90% of Britain’s economic output, this is a slight conundrum: we have a large vessel of business confidence and opportunity ready to set sail but with a significant lack of skill to steer the ship.

And this is just in manufacturing. The UK Shortages Occupation List which is compiled by the Independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) outlines a whole host of sectors with a big gap in their skilled workforce: engineers, electricians, nurses, teachers and chefs, to name but a few.

What can we do?

Britain’s skilled worker shortage is costing us money: from production downtime, inflated salaries and long recruitment processes to an increase in overtime and longer hours worked by existing staff – it’s an issue which needs to be addressed right now for the future.

Education and training

Education is a fundamental factor when it comes trying to combat this issue. Industries which lack the essential skills for their businesses to prosper need to get on the education agenda. This could be done via the National Curriculum as early as secondary school or through the creation of apprenticeship schemes with schools and colleges. In addition, specific sectors and businesses should align themselves with universities in specific locations or across broader undergraduate courses to attract and engage younger learners. Providing sandwich courses to enable students to have a year in industry or providing internal training to upskill existing employees is also highly advantageous.


Traditionally, as we all know, certain professions have either attracted either men or women. But perceptions are continually evolving, especially with the constant advance of technology, and more can be done to open up doors within certain industries, regardless of gender, to help close the skills gap shortages. For example, many barriers have been broken down in the engineering and manufacturing industries in recent years where more and more women are encouraged and inspired to take up highly skilled roles.

Disabled and ethnic minority groups

There is also huge potential to provide more opportunities for disabled and ethnic minority groups.
Even though there are skilled worker shortages, a high percentage of disabled people still are unable to find work. According to the disability charity Scope there are one million disabled people in the UK who want to work but who are not being given the opportunity. This has been boiled largely down to outdated attitudes and a continued failure of businesses to engage with the issue.

To really embrace the confidence and opportunities which our biggest sectors have in their grasp and for the UK to continue to thrive especially in the face of Brexit, businesses need to address the skilled worker shortage with a sense of urgency and invest now for the future.