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Figure equivalent to half of Northern Ireland GDP being lost due to skills shortage in UK

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Despite there being 520,000 job vacancies at UK small businesses, employers are finding it difficult to locate and hire individuals with the requisite skill level, new research finds.

In a study compiled by small business lender Everline and the Centre for Economic and Business Research (Cebr), the 1,000 business decision makers questioned are allocating an average of 100 hours a year to sourcing the right kind of candidates – as well as training new hires and developing existing ones.

Everline and Cebr calculate this figure is worth an average of £3,160 of time in economic terms, time that could be better spent on developing the business. The study also finds that younger business leaders (aged between 18 and 34) spent more time (£7,540) than their older counterparts (aged 55 and over), who loose the equivalent of £1,860.

A quarter of the small businesses involved in the study had current vacancies, with a further 16 per cent not able to fill the role because the range of candidates found were deemed to be not adequately skilled.

Russell Gould, managing director at Everline, said that small businesses are spending too much time searching for the right candidates.

“We are in the midst of a transformational story where small businesses learn to take advantage of the digital age, and more needs to be done to ensure that our workforce has the necessary skills to excel in this changing environment,’ he commented.

“Younger entrepreneurs are doing the right thing by dedicating the time up front to develop their staff, but a more skilled workforce would remove the necessity for this and consequently free up even more time for UK small business owners.”

The amount of jobs available at small businesses is now at its highest level since 2004, with this level of company also planning to increase hiring intentions during 2015. However, in today’s job market, only 17 per cent of small business leaders have fully trained in every area of their job role.

Small businesses are in the midst of the fastest annual growth rate seen during the last four quarters since the Everline Small Business Tracker was launched. At its current rate of 113.4 it is 30.6 per cent higher than Q3 2013 and well above the lowest rate recorded in Q1 2013 of 83.6.

Speaking on his background of hiring as part of a small business, Good Print managing director Harminder Matharu said: “I have had the experience of initially working in a large corporate company, then a start-up and a medium-sized business.

“I found that this experience was an advantage as it gave me the knowledge of the inner workings of a larger company before moving towards more innovative start-ups.”

To provide a better system for small businesses, The Work Foundation chief economist Ian Brinkley recommends a pooling of resources.

He said: “As individual companies with few staff, the cost of things like training, upscaling and recruitment can be significant. By encouraging clusters of small businesses to share the cost by organising larger training sessions with nearby companies, we could significantly reduce their overheads.”

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