CBI President Lord Bilimoria, DL, CBE

Government should immediately update the shortage occupations lists for roles including butchers, bricklayers, and welders to protect the competitiveness of the UK's economic recovery, and align immigration and education policies to help workers gain skills that are needed for shortage roles.

Widening recruitment pools and re-examining shortage occupation lists are just two suggestions from CBI plans to tackle a ‘perfect storm’ of labour shortages across the UK and protect the UK’s recovery from COVID, CBI President Lord Bilimoria, DL, CBE, will outline on Tuesday (29 June).

In a speech to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation’s (REC) Annual Conference, the crossbench peer will diagnose the root of current labour market shortages. Hauliers, hospitality, and food & drink are among the worst affected.

Lord Bilimoria will identify a combination of factors, ranging from the paradoxical effects of the job retention scheme to EU workers not returning to the UK amid the COVID crisis.

He will highlight the importance of training, reforming the Apprenticeship Levy, and creating new technical education routes into careers. Lord Bilimoria will also praise the role of the recruitment industry, which helps place over a million workers in employment, supporting £86 billion in gross value added to the economy.

Amid news of lunchtime sittings at restaurants being cancelled owing to staff shortages, the crossbench peer will say action is needed now to bolster the UK’s competitiveness and growth potential. An adequate supply of staff is critical for securing the UK’s recovery.

Outlining the challenge from labour market shortages

As the weeks go by, more and more businesses are re-opening. It’s fantastic.

But as lockdown restrictions lift, we’re also seeing a surge in the demand for labour - and we know many businesses are already struggling to recruit.

The latest REC/KPMG report shows overall candidate availability during the past quarter declined at its quickest rate since 2017.

It’s a big challenge, not just for individual businesses, who can’t find the people they need, but also for our longer-term economic recovery.

We’ve got a perfect storm of factors coalescing. During the pandemic, many workers from overseas left the UK to return home – hitting the UK’s hospitality, logistics, and food processing industries particularly hard.

The UK’s immigration system is also a barrier to hiring people from overseas to replace those who may have left.

Meanwhile covid has added major uncertainty. With some sectors locked down longer than others, experienced workers have moved to businesses that stayed open.

Other people are understandably wary of changing jobs right now.

And the furlough scheme ─ a lifeline, for millions of employers and employees alike, is becoming a strange paradox for policymakers.

The more successful the Job Retention Scheme is – and it has been very successful so far – the smaller the talent pool for businesses, here and now.

Together, all these factors pose a problem. Whether that’s in hospitality, where the shortage of chefs – already a problem pre-pandemic – is now even more acute.

Or transport, where hauliers are desperately searching for more drivers.

Or in food and drink, where a leading food supplier told us they’ve seen EU workers leaving during the pandemic – and despite offering apprenticeships, they can’t attract new workers to fill the gaps.

And of course – on top of all this, the UK’s longstanding skills shortages haven’t gone away.”

Businesses must first help themselves

  1. As a starting point, this means opening up new routes into business, whether it’s a new apprentice scheme or widening access for candidates with technical qualifications. And since covid – we know so many are innovating, like law firms introducing virtual shadowing schemes during lockdown so junior lawyers could still access training and opportunities.
  2. Second – businesses can tackle labour shortages by investing in innovation and technology.
  3. Third – employers can look to recruit from a wider talent pool, by working with organisations and charities – like Mind, Business in the Community, Movement to Work, or DisabilitySmart

By considering those who might otherwise be overlooked in the world of business – based on their gender, ethnicity, or background, or supporting the CBI’s own campaign – ‘Change the Race Ratio’ to increase ethnic minority inclusion across business.

After launching last year, it’s been amazing to see the momentum – with almost 100 leading employers signed up so far, and counting.

And above all we know that strong employer/employee relations is central to attracting and retaining the best staff, driving the best results.”

Government can act too

We’ve identified two big things the UK government can do straight away, to help make sure the UK is open for business, and to get our economic recovery on the right track.

1. Update the ‘Shortage Occupation List’

First – we need government to immediately update the ‘Shortage Occupation List’

Last year – in September 2020 – the Migration Advisory Committee recommended that we add certain roles to that list.

Butchers, bricklayers, and welders for example.

Today, almost a year on, we worry those are exactly the same sectors facing shortages now.

Businesses would also welcome a commitment to review the list annually, to keep it responsive to the ebb and flow of skill demands across the whole of the UK’s economy.

And where there are clear, evidenced labour shortages, businesses should be able to hire from overseas.

An evolving Shortage Occupations List could help.

But it’s really important to stress - workers from overseas aren’t, and shouldn’t be, our only response to labour shortages. Investing in skills here, too, is vital. It’s not an either/or choice. We must do both to ensure our firms have the access to people they need to succeed.

2. Aign our immigration and skills policies

So the second step is to align our immigration and skills policies – by using the Lifetime Skills Guarantee and the National Skills Fund to help workers gain skills for jobs on the Shortage Occupations List.

Doing more to support British workers, and directing them to qualifications we know are in short supply.

Businesses have embraced the Government’s Kickstart scheme, but more time is needed to match young people to start these opportunities. So the scheme should be extended by 6 months.

Together, these measures could begin to ease the most immediate labour shortages holding firms back, as well as laying the groundwork for a competitive UK economy in the decade to come.  

I never thought – as we come out the other side of the pandemic – I’d be giving a speech about staff shortages.

Business and government together can solve this shortage. And if we do, I have every confidence this could be the best decade yet for the UK economy.”

Lord Bilimoria, DL, CBE, CBI President 

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Floyd Woodrow has a new avatar. 7 hours 34 minutes ago

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page