Despite North West businesses being forecast to create more jobs in 2019, the Confederation of British Industry has called the anticipated restriction of access to labour and skilled workers post-Brexit "a major concern".
In a new report analysing the annual employment trends survey, the CBI and Pertemps Network Group revealed the positive news that 44% of the 100+ North West businesses who responded expect to grow their workforce in the year ahead but that almost two-thirds said that the limited access to labour set to be imposed by Brexit is a threat to competitiveness.
Nationally, nearly half of UK businesses (48%) said that the UK has become a less attractive place to invest and do business over the past five years, and with a new immigration system due to replace free movement of people when the UK leaves the EU, six in 10 firms are concerned about access to enough labour (up from 49% in 2017).
“While the North West job market is in good health, these latest figures make clear that labour and skills shortages are already biting hard," said Damian Waters, CBI North West Regional Director, who also pointed out that 84% of the region’s firms say they are struggling to access the skills they need to succeed.
"The figures also show a worrying trend that there aren’t enough sufficiently skilled people to fill the number of job vacancies," Damian added. “While it is encouraging to see firms are investing in training their staff and helping them develop new skills, this investment alone is not the silver bullet that will meet all our needs.
"Business and the Government need to plug the skills gap and champion the flexible labour market on which our economic strength relies, to ensure investment continues to flow in."
Keen to promote diver workplaces - nine in 10 businesses across the UK (88%) see a diverse and inclusive workforce as important or vital to their future success - the North West is also emerging at the vanguard of gender diversity, with 20% of local businesses making changes to progression routes to help women into management roles and 96% reducing the gender pay gap.
Carmen Watson, Chair of Pertemps, said: “Employment is on the rise and optimism is high among employers. Businesses are remaining competitive but, against a continuing backdrop of skills shortages, what we are seeing is an increasingly employee-driven market.
“Diversity remains on the agenda for UK businesses which, as a diversity advocate myself, I am delighted to see: organisations are waking up to the requirement of improving all spheres of diversity including gender and reducing pay gaps," she added. "Opportunities should be available to everyone and this will only strengthen the success of businesses moving forward.”