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New survey explores how the pandemic has changed the skills demand for London businesses

Tuesday 9 November 2021

London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has today published the results of its Q3 2021 Quarterly Skills Survey, which interviewed over 500 London business leaders from micro to large-scale companies. The survey results shed light on the use and impact of remote working and how the pandemic has changed businesses’ skills needs, with a detailed look at the digital skills gaps in the city. The report also reveals that the majority of businesses are reluctant to engage with training and apprenticeship schemes, even those with government backing such as the Kickstart Scheme.

Key findings from the Q3 Quarterly Skills Survey

With the shift in working patterns post-lockdown, working from home or hybrid working has continued to be the ‘new-normal’ for most businesses in London.

  • 47% of businesses said their organisation had been making greater use of remote working / working from home since March 2020.
  • 58% of businesses whose employees have worked remotely more since the start of the pandemic said it had had a positive impact on their employees’ work/life balance, with 14% saying it had worsened as a result.
  • However, when considering employees’ mental health, businesses were much more divided in terms of the perceived impact: 34% said remote working had a positive impact, while 25% reported a negative impact and 39% thought there was no change.

Companies’ recruitment activity suggests that business optimism in the labour market is returning.

  • Recruitment strengthened in Q3 2021, with 17% of businesses saying they had sought to hire over the previous three months – this was up from 11% in Q2.
  • Businesses reported stronger hiring intentions in Q3, with over half of large companies saying that they were looking to recruit new employees.

Many businesses had to adapt how they operated during the pandemic, which has resulted in a change in the skillsets businesses look for and value in their employees.

  • When asked to consider which skills businesses had greater need of now compared to March 2020, sales or business development was the most cited (39%). This was the case in both micro and larger companies.
  • Businesses also identified the gap in digital skills, with two-thirds of firms (65%) said they had at least one type of gap in digital skills, a challenge that was exacerbated for ‘larger’ businesses, rising to 76%.

Despite the ever-growing focus on ‘levelling up’ and upskilling, especially given the high rates of unemployment and furlough in London, the survey found that most businesses in the capital are unlikely to hire trainees, interns or apprentices or to participate in Government-backed schemes such as Kickstart[1]. The survey also asked businesses about their investment in training.

  • Two thirds of businesses (63%) have no intention to employ staff under apprenticeships, traineeships, internships, the Kickstart Scheme (for 16- to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit) or T-levels.
  • Over half of micro businesses (51%) cited the costs, administration or management required with employing someone in these schemes as a barrier to engagement.
  • Although larger companies were more likely to hire from these schemes, almost a third (30%) said the schemes did not meet the needs of their business.
  • Firms’ investment in training was moderately higher in Q3 2021, with 12% of firms saying that had raised spending compared to the previous three months, growing to almost a third (32%) of larger companies saying that they had increased spending in Q3 2021 over the previous three months

The Quarterly Skills Survey aims to outline the pandemic’s effects on businesses of all sizes across London. This year’s survey shows that most businesses are focussed on growth and business development, which chimes with the findings of LCCI’s London Business 1000 report released earlier this month. It is encouraging to see that working from home continues to have a positive perceived impact on employees but it is clear that business must continue to invest in upskilling and training their employees in vital skills such as digital and that they should look to invest in employees from traineeships and apprenticeship schemes.

To read the full report, click here.


Notes to editors:

Savanta ComRes surveyed a total of 507 London business leaders between 23 July and 16 September 2021. All data were weighted to be representative of all London businesses by company size and broad industry sector. Savanta ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full data tables are available at www.comresglobal.com.

Micro businesses are those with between one and nine employees, larger companies are those with 10 or more employees.

[1] It is worth noting that the fieldwork for this survey was conducted prior to the recent extensions to both incentive payments for hiring apprentices, and the Kickstart scheme itself.