Challenges around recruitment continue to plague SMEs

SMEs continue to weather the ongoing economic storm but are becoming increasingly frustrated by a lack of qualified workers available to fill positions. The ductwork sector has long struggled to address a widely acknowledged and well-documented skills gap but a pronounced shortage of trained sheet metal workers has now exacerbated the issue still further.

A recent Building Engineering Business Survey revealed that staff shortages are currently the biggest immediate concern for SMEs in the building sector – 45% currently have vacancies in their organisation. Interestingly, unaffordable pay expectations was cited as the reason that 40% of SMEs have been unable to fill these vacant positions – a symptom of the lack of qualified individuals competing for jobs.

With higher running costs to deal with, many SMEs can’t afford to offer employment packages on a par with large businesses and not only find themselves with unfilled vacancies but face the threat of losing existing employees to larger competitors offering more attractive pay and benefits.

Another survey carried out on behalf of NatWest Mentor garnered responses from 500 SME decision makers and found that almost a third (29%) of decision makers said wage negotiations failed to meet candidate expectations over the past year, while almost a quarter (24 per cent) struggled to meet further inflationary demands, with benefits packages failing to meet candidates’ expectations. In addition, those surveyed reported that interview no-shows and hires leaving shortly after joining exacerbated the challenging recruitment situation.

The demand for skilled engineers looks set to remain high throughout 2023 and SMEs in the ductwork sector face significant challenges in hiring staff. The skills gap is being keenly felt across the industry and SMEs are being hit hardest with longer recruitment times and increasing costs. Organisations such as ADCAS are working to develop additional training pathways to attract new workers and upskill the industry. Only by establishing a robust framework to help train the next generation and demonstrate competence can the industry hope to address the skills gap and ease the recruitment burden weighing heavily on SMEs.

~ An ADCAS Article