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Mid-sized business growth spurt highlights skills shortage

A shortage of technical and managerial talent could cause the recent growth in Britain's medium-sized business sector to stall, according to a recent report.

GE Capital's research on European mid-market firms (those posting annual turnover between £15 and £89 million) found that UK employers are set to grow sales by 6.1 per cent in the next 12 months, compared to 4.8 per cent in Germany, 3.4 per cent in France and 3.8 per cent in Italy. As a result, these companies will create an estimated 326,000 jobs in Britain compared to 150,000 in Germany. But the report finds that the main barriers to growth concern recruiting and retaining key staff.

Only 37 per cent of UK mid-market firms currently offer apprenticeships, compared to 75 per cent of German mid-market firms. Internships are offered by 33 per cent of UK mid-market firms, well below the figures in France and Italy and half the German level. German mid-market firms are more than twice as likely to provide apprenticeship schemes or internships than UK firms.

Many of the UK firms are taking steps (or plan to take steps) to address the skills issue. Half of all UK mid-market firms currently offering apprenticeships intend to expand these over the next year, as do 42 per cent of those firms offering internships.

As demand strengthens and growth increases, says the report, translating these plans into reality will be crucial to avoid mid-market growth being choked by skill constraints.

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