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Skills shortage costing Welsh organisations over £350 million according to new report

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The majority of organisations surveyed in Wales (92%) struggled to find workers with the right skills over the past 12 months, according to a new report commissioned by The Open University.

The Open University Business Barometer, which monitors the skills landscape of the UK, reveals that employers in Wales are paying a high price to ensure their organisations have the skills required to remain productive.

The shortfall is now costing organisations an extra £355 million a year in recruitment fees, inflated salaries, temporary staff and training for workers hired at a lower level than intended. Organisations in Wales are not optimistic, 68% feel the skills shortage has worsened in the last 12 months, this is higher than the UK average (61%) suggesting the shortage is felt more keenly in Wales.

While just over half (51%) of employers in the UK have been forced to leave a role vacant due to candidates lacking the appropriate skills, the talent shortage is felt more in Wales, with nearly three in five employers (61%) having to leave a position unfilled.

ExpenseCost
Additional recruitment costs£70 million
Increasing salaries on offer£142 million
Training for those hired at a lower level£56 million
Temporary staffing£87million

With skills in short supply, nearly three in four senior business leaders in Wales (74%) find that the recruitment process is taking longer – by an average of one month and 25 days. As a result, 70 per cent report spending more on recruitment – a total of £70 million more than expected.

While the process is taking longer, when talented workers with in-demand skillsets are identified, they are able to take advantage of their strong position, driving employers in Wales to spend an additional £142 million on salaries. Nearly half of employers (48%) were obliged to increase the salary on offer last year, typically on five occasions, by an average of £5,265 each time.

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Many organisations have been forced to give up on finding appropriate talent, choosing either to hire at a lower level than intended (57%) or to leave the role vacant (61%). To address the gaps left by doing this, employers in Wales spent £56 million on training to bring workers up to the level required and a further £87 million in temporary staffing.

The financial impact is not the only drawback of the skills shortage. Over half of organisations in Wales (52%) admit they are not as agile as they need to be due to a lack of skills, and in a changeable political, economic and technological climate adaptability and flexibility are essential. Management and leadership skills are particularly important for navigating change smoothly, yet nearly two in three organisations (64%) said the role they struggled to hire for most recently was a leadership or management position, which is cause for concern.

Over half of senior leaders in Wales (56%) expect the situation to deteriorate over the next 12 months, and nearly half (49%) expect their organisation to struggle financially in the next year, indicating that the issue needs to be urgently addressed.

Lynnette Thomas, Deputy Director, Strategy and Development at The Open University in Wales, says: “Employers in Wales are spending more than £350 million a year on the skills shortage but buying skills and not building them is a short-term approach, which ultimately won’t pay dividends. It is crucial that organisations take a more sustainable approach, using training to address their skills gaps from within and reducing their spend in the long-term.

“Investing in work-based training, which allows workers to earn while they learn, will help Welsh organisations to bridge the divide between the skills available in the labour market and the skills they need, allowing them to focus on stability and growth in the future. Simply put, better training and development will result in more agile, loyal, motivated and productive workforces that are fully equipped to rise to new challenges and drive organisations forward.”

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Working at home versus home working

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woman working at home

A training company is offering companies guidance on how to maximise productivity for those working from home (or home working)

Working at home versus home working – understand the difference? Employers will need to grasp the nuance of each if they are to successfully utilise remote working, be it fully or partly, long term.

Dr Barrie Kennard

That is the view of Dr Barrie Kennard, head of professional practice at training company Call of the Wild.

While the company has itself successfully transitioned from operating from a very physical environment to a hybrid physical/virtual one, it is now helping other companies do the same by helping managers understand some of the key differences around attitude and behaviour that can impact the productivity of employees.

He notes that since workers have returned from their summer holidays, many will now be back into a work routine. However, the remainder of this year and early next will be different. Many will still be based at home. In view of the length of time many have now been based at home, he argues that perceptions around where they work and how they work has changed over the last 20 months.

According to a recent ONS report, more than 25% of the working population have worked remotely since the beginning of the pandemic lockdowns in the UK.

Indeed, Call of the Wild pivoted its own offering away from leveraging the stunning, physical landscape of the Brecon Beacons, where it is based, to inspire learners to embracing the digital world and running its courses virtually. This has now evolved, with the relaxing of restrictions, into a hybrid online and face to face offer.

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It designed this online offer in an innovative way, sending participants on some courses physical props to enhance their digital experience and filming real-life scenarios for use in training exercises where participants could select different outcomes based on their decision making.

In many ways, this benefitted the company. Suddenly, geography was no object, and it has been working with companies in the US and Europe as a result.

But its founders also increasingly realised that not everyone is working in the same way whilst working remotely. And they started to wonder why.

Dr Kennard says the company started compiling intelligence on the different factors that can impact productivity and attitude during home working, while devising solutions and fixes to improve the environment for staff.

To help companies grappling with this same problem, it devised a checklist companies can use with employees and can conduct a free audit for companies looking to maximise the productivity of homeworkers in the long term.

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Dr Kennard says: “We started to realise that there are many factors that affect how we work at home. The big thing to start with is the actual physical space available. Not everyone has the luxury of a dedicated home office; for many, the dining table or kitchen worktop becomes their work area and that has to be cleared away each day.

“In this case the work area may be accessed by others, which can be a source of distraction or embarrassment. In the early days of lockdown there was also the issue of home schooling and general childcare that also impacted on how the working day was organised. Many managers and leaders were required to understand the amount of ‘time juggling’ their staff were engaged in.”

But he says that almost 18 months since the first UK lockdown, and since Call of the Wild first started offering its training virtually, attitudes around working from home have changed – and the provision of companies matured. And he is keen to stress an important nuance that has emerged.

“There is a definite attitudinal difference between those who say they are working at home and those who say they are at home working. Could it be that it is the wording used that sets the comparative importance of the activity? Perhaps the phrase working at home suggests working has more importance whereas home working implies a reverse of priorities,” Dr Kennard says.

“It seems that if one is working at home then work is the primary activity for a set amount of time. Other tasks are completed at times to fit in with work breaks or around the set working hours. In contrast, when someone sees themselves as home working, the opposite is the case. Domestic/family tasks take precedence over work.”

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He acknowledges that the difference is subtle, and everyone’s circumstances differ. “If families assume that having someone at home who would normally be ‘at work’ means that they are available for family-related activities, they may exert pressure upon the home working family member. This provides a genuine problem of conscience when forced to choose between work and family time. Our audits have really helped to define the demarcation between the two.”

He suggests the best remedy for this is to actually ‘go to work’. “The journey to work may only be into another room but by setting a mindset of travelling to a workplace it may be easier for everyone in the house to accept that you are at work.”

He also suggests setting regimented work times and break times and taking the time to call colleagues in the same way you would have a coffee chat. And he adds: “The terminology for hybrid working of the future is smart working!” 

(Lead image: Ron Lach / Pexels.com)

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Port Talbot industrial door manufacturer celebrates year of continued growth

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Rhino Doors, the UK’s leading manufacturer of high-performance engineered doors, has seen significant growth in 2021, amid the continued expansion of its services to clients across transport, defence and critical national infrastructure.

Established in 1983, the company designs bespoke, industrial doors for the protection of national assets, and has supplied its products to the likes of Transport for London and the Ministry of Defence.

This year saw Rhino establish its parent company, Rhino Engineering Group, and two specialist subsidiaries: Rhino HySafe, which produces explosion relief products for the global hydrogen market, and Rhino Site Systems, its bespoke after-sales and installation wing.

The creation of these new trading entities comes after a string of major contract wins for the company, including the Bank Station Capacity Upgrade Project and the installation of bespoke doors in the cross passages of Moorgate Station.

These recent successes for Rhino Doors, which has manufacturing bases in both Burscough in Lancashire and Port Talbot in South Wales, are a positive sign for both the local economies and the workforce.

One of Rhino Doors’ manufacturing facilities

“We’re thrilled with all Rhino has achieved so far in 2021,” said Stuart Lawrence, Managing Director of Rhino Engineering Group.

“From our TfL contracts and our work with a major North American rail tunnel, to a string of new hires and promotions due to our growth, we’re scaling up and strengthening our position as a trusted name within the engineering sector.

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“Alongside this, we’re committed to investing in people and our growth has allowed us to upskill our workforce to ensure we deliver the very best for all our clients.

“As part of the Made in Britain community, and with new ISO accreditations under our belts, we are proud to be in such a strong position, representing the benchmark in British design and manufacturing excellence.

“We want this growth to positively impact on the UK manufacturing sector as a whole, but crucially, we want to continue to benefit our local economies, creating jobs and opportunities for working people in North West England and South Wales.”

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How Welsh curries are improving the lives of children and families in India

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Swansea diners eating at two of the city’s most popular Indian restaurants are unknowingly helping to improve the health and lives of children and families thousands of miles away.

Brothers Jas and Suki Kullar, who own Rasoi Indian Kitchen in Pontlliw and Rasoi Waterfront in SA1, have made it their mission to help people in Dera Baba Nanak in the impoverished district of Gurdaspur in Punjab through their charity, Sikhi Sewa Missions UK. They have committed 20 per cent of their annual profits to causes in their homeland.

Swansea diners are funding a hospital in the region which was built and is sustained by the Sikhi Sewa Mission UK, providing free medical health care for people in Dera Baba Nanak including regular eye screening camps in more remote areas, where locals can attend and receive treatment. They have also provided funding for school fees and uniforms for hundreds of children to access education as well as funding coaching lessons for young people to learn to sew, so they can earn extra income.

This year, the brothers have organised the installation of a water-well for locals and have funded food supplies for 40 families every month.

In addition to the Sikhi Sewa Mission the restaurant also supports charities closer to home such as the Swansea Young Single Homeless Project by inviting service users to the restaurant for meals and catering at their facility.

Jas Kullar said: “It’s really important to us at Rasoi to play some part in improving the lives of people back in Dera Baba Nanak and here in Wales.

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“When we visit Punjab to visit family, we see for ourselves how difficult it is for many people so it means so much to us as a family that we can help, as well as helping causes here in Wales. It gives us huge satisfaction to know that we’re giving back in some way. But we couldn’t help as many people as we do, without the help of our loyal customers. We cannot thank them enough’

He continues: “We have worked very hard to offer something different to the usual curry offering in Swansea and we hope that our customers will have an extra warm feeling knowing that they are helping people both at home and thousands of miles away when they dine with us.”

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