Cumbria Chamber of Commerce is offering a handbook to help businesses recruit in the face of rising staff shortages.
The launch of The Hiring Handbook comes as the British Chambers of Commerce reports that one-in-five businesses are taking six months to fill skilled roles.
And half of businesses are taking longer to fill job vacancies than was the case five years ago.
Rob Johnston, Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said: “That’s the national picture but it’s even tougher for employers in parts of Cumbria.
“Eden and South Lakeland have the joint lowest unemployment rate in the UK – 1.8 per cent – and we know from talking to businesses that there are acute staff shortages in engineering, construction, transport and logistics, and the hospitality sector.
“Given that Cumbria’s working-age population is shrinking, this is a problem that is only going to get worse.”
The Hiring Handbook, compiled in partnership with global job site Indeed, offers practical advice to help small and medium-sized businesses find and recruit the best people.
Rob added: “The handbook is a guide to good practice but in some cases the staff that businesses need simply aren’t there.
“That’s why we’re encouraging businesses to explore ways of becoming more productive – to get more out of the people they have – and to retain and retrain older workers.
“We’ve developed resources to help them do that, which can be downloaded from the Cumbria Business Growth Hub website.”
Click here for tools to boost productivity, here for tools to recruit, retain and retrain older workers and here for guidance on recruiting armed forces veterans.
Meanwhile, the British Chambers of Commerce’s Workforce Survey, based on responses from 1,100 businesses, raises doubts about preparations for the Government’s new T-levels.
The qualification, to be launched next year, offers young people a technical alternative to A-levels. Their studies will include a 45-day industry work placement.
Yet three-quarters of firms say they haven’t heard of T-levels or know only the name. Just three per cent are well informed and 41 per cent have no plans to offer placements.
The survey also suggests that apprenticeship reforms, introduced in 2017, are not meeting the needs of businesses – a view borne out by the 23 per cent fall in the number of apprenticeship starts in Cumbria last year.
Employers say that relaxing funding restrictions, reducing complexity and improving flexibility in the system would improve the take-up of apprenticeships.
Rob said: “For many businesses, taking on apprentices and training them to meet the needs of their business is the best way to plug the skills gap but the apprenticeship system needs to be simpler and less bureaucratic.”
Hear the Chamber’s Business Engagement Manager, Julian Whittle, discussing the Hiring Handbook on That’s TV Cumbria (Freeview Channel 8):