Northamptonshire businesses find it difficult to recruit skilled staff

Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Northamptonshire Chamber
Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Northamptonshire Chamber

Business confidence in Northamptonshire remains high but manufacturers are still experiencing difficulties finding skilled staff, according to the latest economic survey.

Northamptonshire Chamber of Commerce’s latest Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) shows that confidence remained high among businesses in Northamptonshire in the second quarter of 2014, however manufacturers experienced difficulties in finding skilled staff.

The findings from the report released today (July 8) contain responses from 90 businesses about their performance, concerns and experiences of trading in Q2 of 2014.

Feedback from respondents showed Northamptonshire businesses continue to show confidence in both turnover and profitability over the next 12 months.

The report states that 97 per cent (the same as the prior quarter) of manufacturers expect turnover to improve or stay the same and only three per cent expect profitability to worsen over the same period.

Within the service sector 95 per cent expect turnover and 94 per cent expect profitability to improve or remain the same over the coming year, an almost identical position to the last quarter.

In terms of employment 97 per cent (up from 92 per cent on Q1) of the manufacturing respondents’ workforce had increased or remained the same during the quarter, with 64 per cent expecting their workforce to increase over the coming three months (up from 48 per cent on Q1).

Meanwhile 97 per cent of service firms expect their workforce to increase or stay the same over the next three months – broadly similar levels to Q1.

More companies had attempted to recruit new employees in Q2 with 58 per cent of respondents trying to hire new staff (up from 50 per cent on Q1), 95 per cent of manufacturing (up from 92 per cent) and 70 per cent of service (up from 66er cent) opportunities were for full-time jobs.

The survey also reveals that 71 per cent of manufacturing (up from 55 per cent) and 44 per cent of service sector (down from 49 per cent) respondents who tried to recruit experienced difficulties in finding staff. In particular, the challenges related to sourcing skilled manual/technical staff.

Focusing on national trade, 67 per cent of respondents from the manufacturing sector reported an increase in UK sales, while 90 per cent of service companies stated that sales had increased or stayed the same over the last quarter (95 per cent prior quarter) highlighting a similar position to Q1.

Export sales and orders remained in positive territory this quarter with continuing strong results in all measures. The survey showed 94 per cent of manufacturers export sales’ remained the same or increased over the last three months with 67 per cent reporting increased sales.

The service sector continues to flourish with 96 per cent reporting level or increased export sales over the last three months and an equivalent number reporting level or increased advance orders.

Fewer companies felt they were under pressure to raise prices in Q2: 21 per cent of manufacturers, (29 per cent Q1), and 23 per cent of service companies (fall of 10 per cent on Q1).

Nearly half of manufacturers voiced raw materials costs as the main pressure to raise prices in the survey. Price pressure from other overheads is still the main concern for service companies at 37 per cent (up from 33 per cent on Q1).

Paul Griffiths, chief executive of Northamptonshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “The QES for the second quarter of 2014 shows the continuing optimism of Northants firms and once again reflects strong performances by companies.

“It is positive to hear that more businesses intend to increase their workforce as job creation is an important factor to the economic recovery.

“Manufacturers have long cited issues with finding skilled staff to fulfil positions. The government needs to work more with businesses and the education sector to inspire young people into these roles so that the UK can truly be a manufacturing global success.”