‘Growth up. Jobs up. Wages up.’ The picture painted by the Chancellor of where our economy stands today was a truly uplifting one, as he set out his Autumn Budget.
And while lots of the announcements made will improve accessibility to jobs, increase basic rates of pay, aim to better connect us with international talent and level up skills gaps, there is more still that can be done to ensure industries we so heavily rely on in the UK that are currently struggling are better enabled to recover.
The UK went into the pandemic with a skills shortage and we’re coming out of it with an even bigger one. Combined with the impact of Brexit and the red tape being introduced to so many elements of our professional lives, we’re already feeling the consequences of two of the landmark eras of our generation on several key industries – hospitality, logistics, construction and more. The challenge is where to find the right people to fill vacancies, and how to train the next generation.
The Chancellor’s plan is to open the UK up to international markets. The Trade Secretary recently announced the launch of the Global Talent Network, which will connect the UK with countries including America and India to attract talent for key science and tech sectors with the aim of making Great Britain a ‘superpower’ in these fields. Meanwhile, Scale-Up Visas will now be on offer to fast-growing businesses to attract foreign minds to our shores, as Sunak promised to develop the ‘most competitive visa system in the world'.
While implementing both these steps will inevitably lead to us attracting highly skilled individuals to the UK, there are a mass of businesses in need of workers right now. From lorry drivers to cleaners, the impact of the UK’s new immigration rules has plunged various sectors into difficulties when it comes to sourcing enough people.
Sunak declared £3.8bn would be spent on the skills agenda, to expand T Levels, create new educational facilities, provide more people with access to further education and skills bootcamps, and further increase funding for apprenticeships. However, it’s expected some of this capital will be generated by increased taxes on businesses.
Additionally, there was clear support for lifelong learning and reskilling – something we truly champion. One way to ensure industries can rebuild and access talent is to look beyond qualifications and CVs, and instead match employers with personality traits. Our long-held view is that if adequate training is available, a company will be just as successful hiring someone with a distinct match in culture and values, as it would be hiring someone who’s got a ream of qualifications under their belt. Reskilling will be key to ensuring talent can be redistributed to struggling industries, and it was reassuring to see the Chancellor make plans for it to become commonplace.
That said, businesses do need to look beyond basic levels of pay and training to attract and retain the best people for their roles. Yes, introducing a higher salary can plug a gap when there is a sudden demand for resource – as seen with Tesco and Aldi increasing the basic rate of pay for their HGV drivers – but eventually, the bubble of more money does pop. People seek engagement, investment into their wellbeing and an employer with purpose that they can be proud of. So, while the government sets out its plans to help businesses navigate the current state of the economy, businesses should also be looking internally at what they can do to stand out when it comes to looking after their people.
We also must mention the recent landmark announcement for Rolls-Royce to develop the country’s first small modular reactors (SMRs). As the green agenda dominates the headlines from COP26 – and is a pertinent agenda item in boardrooms across the globe – the nuclear new build scheme will not only drive forward the UK’s vision to reach net zero emissions and promote new technology that can be exported globally, but it’s also set to create some 40,000 regional jobs. Many of these roles are expected to mirror the government’s plan to boost the number of clean tech jobs, with the overall scheme predicted to generate £52bn in economic benefit .
The government’s commitment to helping the UK ‘Build Back Better’ is clear, as investment in infrastructure and innovation equals jobs, new opportunities at every level and a buoyant talent market, which is beneficial to all.