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Almost one million, 81 per cent, of small businesses across England are facing major recruitment problems, according to recent research by the Gatsby Foundation.

A survey of 502 SME decision makers in England revealed that over half, 55 per cent, believe there is a lack of candidates with the required skills and knowledge, with 43 per cent citing an ability to source such talent as their second biggest business concern, behind rising costs.

Despite this, 86 per cent of small businesses claimed they face barriers upskilling their current staff, highlighting an inability to attract, retain and upskill key digital talent.

Jenifer Burden, MBE, Director of Programmes at Gatsby, said: “Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and society, but there’s no doubt they’re facing a tough year ahead. As our research shows, one of their major challenges is getting to grips with the education and skills landscape, which has changed and can be complex to understand.”

Commenting on the research, John Garrido, Regional VP UK for WithYouWithMe said: “In the current climate of rising costs and economic instability, the need for digitally proficient people is more urgent than ever to help lead businesses forward. The issue does not lie with a lack of available staff, in fact there is a significant untapped pool of skilled individuals who are key to solving the digital skills crisis.”

“We are increasingly working with organisations in the UK to build and train teams for in-demand tech roles by identifying and upskilling talent in overlooked sections of society such as Armed Forces veterans and their spouses, refugees and neurodivergent individuals.

“Our AI-powered technology uses scientifically-based psychometric testing to identify individuals with the aptitude to thrive in tech-based roles, and provides them with certified training to make them rapidly proficient and job-ready in under 150 hours” he added.

Recent research from WithYouWithMe highlighted that many of these overlooked talent pools typically have higher than average aptitude to thrive in digital careers.

For example, autistic individuals typically score 10 per cent higher in key tech capabilities. Almost a third, 32 per cent, of neurodivergent individuals scoring higher in spatial awareness and 10 per cent higher in Digital Symbol Coding. These key skills directly translate to careers in the engineering, IT and data analytics sectors.

The data, collected from 12,000 test results from more than two years of aptitude testing, observed individuals’ aptitude and attitude to identify their suitability and adaptability to a career in tech, with the aim of identifying people who can help solve the UK’s digital skills crisis.

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