Drivers are crucial to Christmas for most businesses but finding enough with the right qualifications is becoming a huge recruitment headache for employers, according to the latest JobsOutlook survey by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC). And this is part of more widespread skill and talent shortages reported by employers.

The REC’s research, published today (Wednesday), shows that, in September, 21 per cent of employers looking to hire permanent drivers and distribution workers and 23 per cent of those wanting to recruit through agencies expected shortages. Employers were more worried in September about filling driver vacancies than any other type of job.

Across their wider workforces, a lack of available capacity is increasingly jeopardising some employers’ ability to meet November and December’s additional demand for their goods and services. In September, 91 per cent of employers in the survey said they had little or no capacity to take on more work – the fourth month in a row that the figure has been at or above 90 per cent.

With unemployment falling faster than expected, finding suitable candidates is likely to go on being tough, while prospects for those with the right skills are going to be very good. Eighty-nine per cent of employers said they will increase their permanent workforce in the next three months. Only four per cent planned to decrease numbers.

Employers with 200 or more employees are the major engine of jobs growth for permanent and short-term hires with those employers more than twice as likely to be expecting to add to headcount than microbusinesses.

REC CEO Kevin Green said: “Recruiters are telling us that drivers are particularly hard to find. People are put off entering the sector by the high costs of things like training and insurance with the new Certificate of Professional Competence requirements compounding the difficulties.

“With peak time for deliveries coming up in November and December, shortages are an immediate problem and one that will only get worse in the longer term. There are almost as many qualified drivers aged over 60 as there are under 30. We need to see more employers offering driver training and accreditation. The government could help by providing some pump priming funds.

“The UK’s workforce is lean with minimal spare capacity and growing shortages of workers with the skills to fill the jobs that are currently available. As employers compete more intensely in the jobs market for the skills they need to grow there will be upward pressure on salaries in the months ahead.”

This month’s JobsOutlook report shows that:

  • 89 per cent of employers plan to increase their permanent staff in the next three months.
  • 77 per cent of employers plan increase their permanent staff in the next four to twelve months.
  • 45 per cent plan to increase their temporary staff in the next three months.
  • 38 per cent plan to increase their temp staff in the next four to twelve months.
  • 65 per cent of employers are using agency workers to provide short-term access to key skills