The IoD Guernsey Skills sub-committee launched a survey in February to seek business leaders’ current priorities for skills development and recruitment, using a mixture of quantitative and qualitative data. The sub-committee had 59 responses from employers, 54% of whom represented companies with more than 20 people and 46% from businesses with fewer than five people.
The results show that 64% of respondents have said they have the skills within their workforces to succeed. However, based on experience, 69% have said that trying to recruit specialist skills like technical skills has proven most challenging. Soft skills such as communication were the most inconsistent (46%), with relevant experience (37%) and candidate expectations (31%) not far behind. In all four areas (soft skills, specialist skills, relevant experience and candidate expectations) the respondents have generally found it hard to find good candidates.
Over the next five years, respondents agreed that their teams' skills will need to change due to the pressures relating to digital and technology, as well as adapting to increased automation and regulation.
Several expected to be more agile in their thinking and workflow as they experiment and embrace changes, focusing on data-driven decisions. They are also more open to different ways of working, with flatter hierarchies and more attention to mental health. The importance of soft skills in a world where processes are automated, and therefore service quality is increasingly the differentiator, has caused some concern.
Virtually all respondents (95%) expect to upskill or reskill their existing staff, but 60% expect to fulfil their needs through external recruiting, and 32% through partnerships or acquisitions.
Meriel Lenfestey, Chair of the IoD Skills sub-committee, said: ‘Upskilling and reskilling by employers or by individuals does face some barriers. Aside from some uncertainty on what the future would be, the primary barrier for 56% of respondents for upskilling was having the time to do it whilst also delivering the day job. This was closely followed by the availability of suitable courses (49%), and the willingness or capability of suitable candidates (41%).
‘Interestingly, a few cited funding as a barrier, especially smaller companies, with most accepting that they would need to spend more on training and CPD in the next five years.’
The results showed no indication that housing licences are a major challenge, which implies that there is reasonable confidence for potential on-island.
Respondents, however, were asked how the government could help to overcome barriers. The main points included support for organisations by allowing skilled people to come to the island, including a focus on making it more affordable for young people to live here, and lobbying for equal access to global technology such as high-speed connectivity and payment platforms. Results also included mentions of support for post-school or life learning to support changing future needs, including digital and creative, either through direct funding, or incentives for individuals and employers. There was also an emphasis on acting as a role model by developing their own people and processes.
When asked how our education system (children and adult education) could deliver more workplace-ready candidates, there was a strong focus on both soft skills (including critical and analytical thinking, creative problem solving, collaboration, values, interpersonal relationships and resilience), and vocational skills (ranging from the everyday such as answering the phone, to deeper technical skills around the finance sector and beyond, and technology and digital methodologies). Several cited a desire for stronger English and Maths skills and there was a clear appreciation of a need for more design, engineering, programming and economic skills for the future.
The majority (92%) felt this required more collaboration with business and more vocational training (58%) and specialist training (55%). Suggestions from respondents included more work experience opportunities, and more external speakers in schools to raise awareness and drive richer and deeper career consideration. Some respondents felt that on-the-job training should be given more credibility and perhaps even funding, as opposed to university as the preferred route post-18.
Meriel Lenfestey said: ‘Thank you to all of our respondents. Overall, employers have clearly expressed a need for enhanced skills and upskilling, and call for our education providers to work with businesses, and for our government to incentivise and lay the foundations for our digital future wherever possible. We hope islanders and employees embrace this learning.
‘The sub-committee is focused on supporting the development of a sustainable working population with the right expertise and competence to help drive long-term economic success.'