Closing the skills gap – will the government’s plans help?

skills gap
By Anthony Wolny | 11th March 2020 | 8 min read

According to recruitment specialist Robert Half UK, SMEs are facing a skills gap that will impact SME total revenue by £145,000 in the next year, rising to £318,000 in the next five years.

It’s a huge number, and many SMEs are filling the gap by hiring a larger number of interim and temporary employees than they usually would.

We heard last year that a significant part of the government’s plans to ‘forge a new Britain’ includes investing in Britain’s people, including commitments around skills, training and adult education.

So, how could the government’s plans close the skills gap for SMEs? Let’s take a look…

National Skills Fund

An investment of £600m a year has been promised for the government’s new five-year National Skills Fund. The Fund is designed to transform the lives of people who have not got onto the work ladder and lack qualifications, as well as people who are keen to return to work from raising a family, or switch from one career to another.

How will it help? A large proportion of this sum will provide matching funding for individuals and SMEs for high-quality education and training.

Further education

The government want to make sure that local colleges are excellent places for people to learn. So, they’re investing almost £2 billion in upgrading them, as well as creating 20 Institutes of Technology to connect high-quality teaching in science, technology, engineering and maths to business and industry.

How will it help? SMEs may benefit from opportunities to work with colleges on relevant research projects and training courses.


The introduction of the apprenticeship levy in 2017 broadened the scope of industries and job roles offering this type of work. And the government plan to take this even further by incorporating apprentices for allbig new infrastructure projects, including new hospitals, new schools, and major transport projects.

How will it help? Most SMEs don’t have to contribute to the apprenticeship levy. The continued government focus on the benefits of apprenticeships is a great opportunity to make sure your business is making the most of all they offer.

How SMEs should respond

While these are all good signs of positive steps towards closing the skills gap for SMEs, there’s still a long way to go. So, the advice for SMEs through this changing landscape is to make identifying and filling gaps within their organisation a priority. Agreeing a clear set of development opportunities for their employees, as well as achievable career paths, should also be high on the agenda.

If you need more expert advice on nurturing a working environment where team members feel they can learn and develop in their role, we have a free guide to creating a strong learning and development strategy for your business, including ways in which IRIS HR Professional can help.

Download it here today