Job vacancies in the UK have reached a record high – while that could be a sign of a vibrant labour market, it also suggests that businesses are struggling to fill vacancies as a range of sectors contend with skills shortages.

Additionally, it would be premature to read too much into recent ONS figures given that the Government’s flagship Job Retention Scheme will be winding down next month.  Doncaster business leaders will be facing some tough decisions as they reconcile protecting their businesses with safeguarding their workforce, whilst also dealing with rising costs and – in many cases – disrupted supply chains.

Andy Dennis, MD of Pennine Stone, said: “The Job Retention Scheme was helpful as whilst we were able to maintain our manufacturing workforce, colleagues in support functions were less necessary and the safety net of furlough enabled us to retain their key knowledge in the business.

“It’s also true to say we had to re-structure and some colleagues left the business, though its pleasing to know many were soon back in employment elsewhere in the sector.

“We’ve seen minimal impacts from Brexit, though the rising cost of key raw materials is a major concern. Like everyone, supplies of timber, steel and additives have risen exponentially and supplies are difficult, fortunately we’re committed to long term supply partners so are managing to maintain supplies just now.

“It’s hard to pinpoint Brexit or the global demand for supplies when production output has been impacted internationally. Logistics is a serious problem, for inbound supplies, thankfully we operate an owned fleet, so for us, delivery to our customers is less of a challenge.”

For many firms in Doncaster and the wider South Yorkshire region, a shortage of suitably qualified staff available from the local area has been a longstanding problem and one which has been further compounded by the current business environment.

Thanks to the region’s successful bid to become a trailblazer site for the Local Skills Improvement Plan, which was led by Doncaster Chamber, this could now begin to be addressed.

Dan Fell, Doncaster Chamber CEO, said: “Whilst the ONS figures look promising for the economy, the reality is much more complex.  Even though there are a large number of vacancies, there is no guarantee that they will be filled despite high levels of unemployment.

“A range of industries – including digital, hospitality, logistics, and manufacturing are reporting acute skills challenges at present – these issues are deep rooted and systemic but have been exacerbated by Brexit and the pandemic.

“Through the Local Skills Improvement Plan we hope to facilitate further collaboration between the education community and STEM employers.  This is unlikely to produce any quick fixes but means that, in the mid-term, we can hope to see a change in the narrative and improved prospects for South Yorkshire’s businesses and employers.”


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