Opinion

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Charlie Mullins: The pool of skilled talent is shrinking by the day

3 Mins

I’ve been going on about the skills gap for ages because it’s always been there like a dull pain, aching in the background, but generally tolerable.

But with the upsurge in demand for our services, the dull pain that’s haunted UK industry for a couple of decades is now acute and more like a red hot poker jabbing you in the ribs.

And, if you need further evidence of this situation, just walk past my recruitment manager’s office and hear the screams! It certainly sounds like someone’s getting the red hot poker treatment in there!

The truth is he’s had a good year, as I’m always saying in the blog – we have brought on some great people in the past 12 months. But there’s just not enough to go around, especially in the ‘top shelf’ trades people market that we are trading in.

The short answer is the pool of available talent is shrinking by the day, as the work out there continues to rise, both in terms of our bookings and the work that’s around generally.

So, what do we do next, given that we are faced with a situation where there is a clear opportunity to grow the business, but first we must now square up to, and solve, the skilled labour problem that has been tracking our improving fortunes for some time?

In the past as a nation we have gone abroad; for example, the NHS has actively recruited GPs from the Indian sub-continent and nurses from Ireland and Australia.

So, will the next innovation in the recovery be companies like Pimlico placing adverts in foreign newspapers? I don’t know if that’s the answer for us, but I do need to find several dozen more plumbers and heating engineers from somewhere, and soon.

It’s a genuine dilemma, but one that we all must solve if we are going to be in a position to capitalise on the great economic gains that have been made over the past four years. The medium to long term solutions are clear – we must train more people, and in doing so solve our other economic spectre, benefit dependence.

But the question for many businesses, I suspect, is a much more immediate one – how do we solve the skilled labour crisis today, tomorrow and next week?

Charlie Mullins is the CEO and founder of Pimlico Plumbers.

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