Few North East firms looking to recruit from abroad

North East Chamber of Commerce policy adviser Paul Carbert.
North East Chamber of Commerce policy adviser Paul Carbert.

Almost half of businesses in the region have faced skills or labour shortages in the last year, but few are looking overseas to tackle the problem, according to a survey from the North East England Chamber of Commerce.

The annual workforce survey, based on the responses of more than 1,400 business people across the UK, found 45% of firms in the North East had faced skills or labour shortages over the last year.

As the Government plans for a post-Brexit immigration policy, our members want to see a flexible and unbureaucratic system that allows businesses to access the best global talent.

Paul Carbert

Most sought to address the shortages by increasing investment in recruitment, training and pay and benefits, but just eight per cent had tried recruiting non-UK nationals overseas.

Thirty per cent of firms in the region have employees from other EU countries on their workforce, while 25 per cent have employees from outside the EU.

And 22 per cent of North East firms say future restrictions on the rights of EU nationals to work in the UK would have a negative impact on their business.

North East companies are most likely to rely on word of mouth to recruit staff.

Chamber policy adviser Paul Carbert said: “Members report that skills shortages are prevalent across all sectors, particularly at higher and technical levels, and almost half of North East businesses say they struggled to fill vacancies in the last year.

“Our members look to fill posts locally, and many invest in training and apprenticeships, or build links with educational institutions, to recruit the staff they need.

“However, skills shortages remain, as competition for highly-skilled staff grows within the UK and across the world.

“Many businesses in the North East benefit from having a diverse workforce with staff members from across the EU and beyond, and our five world-class universities provide an important boost for the region’s economy by attracting international students and research talent.

“Skilled overseas workers are often attracted to work for firms in the North East when they are already working in other regions of the UK, and any future restrictions will inevitably have a knock-on effect on our members’ ability to recruit the staff they need to facilitate growth.

“As the Government plans for a post-Brexit immigration policy, our members want to see a flexible and unbureaucratic system that allows businesses to access the best global talent.

“We will ensure our members’ views are represented in the current review.”