Facing up to the skills challenge

Facing up to the skills challenge

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With hospitality and tourism industries suffering from staff shortages, the problem has spread to a widespread skills gap across many sectors <i>(Image: Herald Design)</i>
With hospitality and tourism industries suffering from staff shortages, the problem has spread to a widespread skills gap across many sectors (Image: Herald Design)

IT will probably come as no surprise that, as part of the ongoing challenges faced by our tourism and hospitality businesses, finding staff is a significant challenge. What is very clear is that different approaches to recruitment are needed more than ever.

Glasgow Airport will showcase an excellent example of a new approach to the issue tomorrow, when it hosts its largest-ever jobs fair, positioning the destination as a multi-sector, collaborative employer-base. More than 30 businesses across aviation, security, catering and transport will be on hand to discuss a diverse range of more than 500 jobs on offer.

However, these recruitment challenges are not restricted to tourism and hospitality and are faced by many sectors across the Chamber’s membership. Whether it is the maritime and engineering sectors or renewables, it’s a real problem across the board and at all levels.

The Fraser of Allander Institute’s Scottish Business Monitor recently found that nine in 10 businesses were struggling to hire the staff they need. More than 75 per cent found a lack of required skills or experience continued to be the greatest challenge in filling their roles, with a lack of applications identified as an additional barrier. Increasingly, wage expectations are also making it difficult for Scottish firms to hire the required staff.

There are, of course, many reasons for these staff shortages, such as the reduction in EU labour and shifting trends around ways of working, but understanding and acting on the issues faced by our members is core business for our Chamber.

In that sense, we are incredibly fortunate to be able to work with more than 20 leading HR director practitioners and business owners through our Glasgow Employment and Skills Board (GESB), and it’s a real privilege to co-chair the board alongside Jim McHarg of Babcock International.

GESB has a policy influencing remit across all areas of employment and skills. It also oversees the Scottish Government-funded Developing Young Workforce activity and takes a solutions-focused approach to current problems being faced by businesses and the city.

These concerns on recruitment are one such problem where the board has taken a proactive approach, setting up a short-life working group, led by Gayle Shepherd of SEC.

The group is now working with businesses across the city to develop a concept which will support employers to engage with the next generation of their workforce and retain candidates whilst finding easier ways to navigate funding complexities. It’s this different way of looking at the same problem which will help to generate new approaches to source and secure these highly sought-after candidates.

GESB is building on this work to create the "Skill the Gap" product in the spring, which will showcase some of these solutions and share the support that is currently available. The board also makes employer-led responses to local and national consultations on employment and skills and most recently contributed to the Review of the Skills Delivery Landscape for the Scottish Government – a formidable task being undertaken by Independent Advisor James Withers.

With a wide brief, James is considering what is needed to build a skills landscape that is fit for the future and can unlock the potential that lies in us all. Of course, the consistent appeal from businesses to simplify the employability and skills landscape stays resolute. As does the ask for a policy shift in how we measure attainment beyond academic achievement to incorporate volunteering and other relevant skills activity.

There is also a request for multi-year funded interventions which would enable businesses and suppliers to retain key staff and evolve products to ultimately benefit the end user.

It is a particularly complex review but I am confident James has the expertise and ambition required to recommend the kind of bold steps to enable the more agile, responsive system we need now in this world where the only constant is indeed change. And rapid change at that.

Alison McRae is Senior Director at Glasgow City Chamber of Commerce