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Skills shortage a ‘major threat’ to rail upgrades

The skills shortage within the engineering and construction sectors is now at a critical stage and constitutes a major threat to planned rail upgrades, according to a recruitment expert.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) chief executive Kevin Green says that employers are finding it increasingly difficult to find quality candidates.

A joint report on the employment market with KPMG found that the availability of skilled workers shrank further in September. Treasury body Infrastructure UK is currently working on a National Infrastructure Plan for Skills, something which was discussed last month when NCE held a round table to discuss the rail industry’s skills shortage.

Launchig the report today, Green said: “As politicians make their big pitches to workers and to business at the party conferences, the UK jobs market is entering a new phase.

“Talent shortages are making it increasingly difficult for employers to find quality candidates. This is now at a critical stage in the construction and engineering sectors, constituting a major threat to planned rail upgrades and housebuilding projects.

“The planned introduction of the National Living Wage is causing businesses to consider alternatives to hiring more staff and this could lead to greater automation in some sectors. This might have a positive impact on UK productivity, but it could also put the brakes on employment growth.

“Salaries are growing rapidly in the private sector as employers compete for talent. This too will have an impact on the amount of jobs businesses can create.

“It’s imperative that the government recognises these issues. We need a renewed focus on skills and progression to create a better supply of talented candidates in the long term. Meanwhile, we need the government to help businesses bring in talent from abroad.”

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