How the skills shortage is impacting Suffolk businesses

Graham Burchell of Challs Picture: CHALLS

Graham Burchell of Challs Picture: CHALLS - Credit: Archant

Independent businesses in Suffolk are speaking out as new research reveals organisations are spending £6.3billion nationally to plug a skills shortage.

Ian Ambrose of Ambrose Electrical Ltd Picture: IAN AMBROSE

Ian Ambrose of Ambrose Electrical Ltd Picture: IAN AMBROSE - Credit: Archant

Electrical contractor Ian Ambrose has been looking high and low for a new recruit to join his company for the last five months – and so far, he hasn’t had any luck.

“Its a problem, there’s a shortage of qualified tradespeople at the moment,” said Mr Ambrose, whose company Ambrose Electrical is based in Sudbury.

“There are a lot of middle-aged part time, electricians, but not young people willing to work full time. I’m using subcontractors, but they’re very busy.”

Mr Ambrose said that in an ideal world, he’d train up young employees.

Carer Melissa Keer of Beyea Care Limited with client Violet Taylor Picture: CATHY WOOD

Carer Melissa Keer of Beyea Care Limited with client Violet Taylor Picture: CATHY WOOD - Credit: Archant

“A diploma at college isn’t giving them the right training,” he added.

“It’s too classroom based – they’re not getting enough real-life, hands-on experience.”

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Mr Ambrose isn’t alone in his concerns. A new study by the Open University of 950 business leaders shows organisations are spending £6.3billion on temporary workers, recruitment fees, inflated salaries and training.

At least six in 10 respondents admitted a skills shortage in their workplace, and 60% said they think it has worsened in the last 12 months.

Graham Burchell, managing director of the household cleaning products firm Challs, based in Hadleigh, has been talking to South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge and Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill about the issue.

He said: “30% of our staff are non-British and the majority are these are Eastern European. They’re often very highly skilled with degrees.

“They’re very high calibre staff that we struggle to match from UK nationals, particularly on the factory floor.

“In the UK, if you are a student doing GCSEs, the feeling is that if you are a complete failure you can always get a job in a factory. In other countries, its seen as being a highly valued skill.”

Another sector currently struggling with staff recruitment issues is the care industry. Cathy Wood, co-director of the nurse-led care company Beyea Care, blames staff recruitment issues on the bad publicity she believes that care work receives.

“Nobody wants to go into care,” she said. “It’s getting harder and harder to find new staff. We’re trying to advertise by every means possible, but we’re finding that although people want to be seen to be looking for work, they don’t turn up for the interviews.”

Although care businesses have struggled lately to recruit staff, for Michael Regan – a father-of-five from Ipswich – being a carer is the best job he’s ever had.

The 55-year-old, who previously worked as a scaffolder and a slaughterer, has been employed by Beyea Care for the last six years.

“We are keeping clients in their houses where they feel safe, and that’s lovely,” he said. “When I wake up and I don’t feel like going to work, I still go, because I know I’ve got people who rely on me, and that’s a nice feeling.”

But he admits the job isn’t for everyone.

“People often assume that caring is about cleaning people, but it’s about giving them company, just sitting and chatting,” he added. We’re not in a rush, we’ve got time for them.”

Another care company, Mere View, based in Stowmarket, is addressing the industry skills shortage by increasing their pay rate and offering guaranteed hour contracts for carers.

It now offers a wage 10% above the National Living Wage, and guaranteed hour contracts for 100% of employees’ normal hours.

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