Skills shortage and visa red tape hits business, Canary Wharf KPMG warns

Warning from Canary Wharf... is skills shortage sinking London's reputation beneath the waves?

Warning from Canary Wharf... is skills shortage sinking London's reputation beneath the waves? - Credit: Archant

Visa restrictions must be relaxed or shortage of skills will lose London its global competition to the Far East, KPMG analysts at Canary Wharf warn.

Nearly half the companies in east London and elsewhere are feeling the pinch due to skills shortages, especially in science and technology, according to its quarterly survey.

Two-thirds had problems getting skilled staff, with 20 per cent reporting difficulties in technology, 14pc in creativities and 12pc in finance and engineering.

Half have had to establish links with schools and colleges and are providing work experience and careers talks.

Now they are calling for a reformed visa system to remove barriers to hiring skilled staff from overseas.

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“Many businesses, including our own, face a larger skills deficit and struggle to find the talent needed,” KPMG’s chairman Richard Reidf said.

“The war for talent, combined with London’s higher housing and transport costs, is getting more complex for employers.”

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Action was needed to address poor basic numeracy and literacy skills. But a large barrier was red tape when trying to recruit highly-skilled specialists from abroad, KPMG warns.

“Easing the barriers of our complex visa system would ensure we attract the best global talent to compete on a world stage,” Mr Reidf added. “Failure to act swiftly will see London slip in its global reputation as a world-class business destination to places like Shanghai, Singapore and Mumbai.”

The warnings on visa entry have been echoed by the Confederation of British industry.

The CBI’s London director Lucy Haynes said: “Policymakers need to look at further streamlining the visa system. Science and technology skills are particularly valuable, with London’s thriving creative and technology sector set to have big growth over the next five years.”

However, the cost of high housing and transport expenses remain the biggest threat to competitiveness, analysts warn. Half the firms reported roads deteriorating, but saw improvement in the cycle and tube networks.

But the survey of 115 firms showed rising optimism about the economy over the next six months, with two-thirds planning to expand.

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