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Firms recruiting overseas to close the skills gap

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A significant proportion of UK firms are looking abroad to find skilled workers in the absence of suitable job candidates at home.

The latest Labour Market Outlook survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that many employers are experiencing difficulties in recruiting appropriately skilled workers from the domestic work pool.

Of the 600 employers polled, almost a half (45 per cent) reported having vacancies that were proving hard to fill.

A fifth (21 per cent) said that they were taking on migrant workers for engineering positions, while a similar proportion (18 per cent) were looking abroad for people to fill IT and financial posts.

As a result, 17 per cent of respondents said they planned to recruit migrant workers in the third quarter of 2010.

Over the past three months, one in five (21 per cent) of the employers surveyed took on migrant workers, with over a third (37 per cent) of these recruited from outside the European Economic Area.

Gerwyn Davies, the CIPD’s public policy advisor, highlighted the difficulties that the government’s proposed non-EU immigration cap may impose.

Mr Davies said: “The study highlights the complex juggling act the government now faces. The proposed introduction of a migration cap comes at a time when many employers are still struggling to fill skilled vacancies despite the high unemployment rate.

“The training of local or British workers to fill skilled jobs currently occupied by migrant workers will not happen overnight. And despite our efforts to educate and train staff for shortage occupations, there is no guarantee that they will go on to progress in that career, as we have found with engineers.

“If a cap is to be introduced therefore, it has to be gradually phased in to avoid harming UK competitiveness. Employers running global operations will be forced to offshore skilled jobs to other countries if the right skills mix in the UK cannot be found.”