New research from the business investment firm Albion Ventures reveals that more than one-third (36%) of small companies in the UK are struggling to realize their growth potentials because of skills shortages.

The firm’s Growth Report 2013 explored the prospects and challenges of 450 SMEs and found many of them struggling to manage significant gaps in the following skill sets: 16% were struggling to find adequately skilled sales staff, 12% cited IT as their chief skill shortage and 10% cited financial management.

It will not escape the attention of the jobbing Umbrella Company Employee that the last two skills are core disciplines in the professional contracting community. While not referred to directly in the Albion study, SMEs with limited resources may be helped to access desperately-needed skills by hiring appropriately qualified and experienced contractors to meet business demands when they arise instead of taking on additional permanent staff.

Regionally, Greater London and Manchester are facing the stiffest competition to hire appropriately skilled staff.

Albion Ventures’ managing partner, Patrick Reeve, said that it was a “real concern” that, at a time when recruitment was picking up and the economy was showing signs of revival, so many small firms are struggling to bridge skills gaps. He continued: “These findings provide a clear guidance as to where the biggest skills gaps reside and it’s vital these are addressed. The chancellor’s decision to reduce national insurance contributions of up to £2,000 per business has been a welcome move for those firms looking to hire new staff but it does not deal with the challenge of finding them in the first place.”

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