RAPID reform is urgently needed to tackle the staff shortages which are crippling businesses across the UK.

The Government must take action to encourage firms to unlock new talent by investing in their workforce and reform the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) to allow more sectors access to overseas workers.

Businesses remain under huge pressure to fill jobs, but record levels of recruitment difficulty are showing no signs of improvement.

Solutions are urgently needed so that firms can keep their doors open throughout these tough times.

The Chamber network has written to the Government outlining a three-point plan on how they can work with businesses to solve this:

• Firms must be encouraged to find new ways of unlocking pools of talent – by investing more in training their workforce, adopting more flexible working practices, and expanding the use of apprenticeships

• Government must help employers invest in training by reducing the upfront costs on business and providing training-related tax breaks

• The Shortage Occupation List (SOL) must be reformed to allow sectors facing urgent demand for skills to get what they need The SOL is not currently fit for purpose and should be more flexible, so it supports firms experiencing a national recruitment crisis.

There are 1.3 million unfilled jobs in our economy and now fewer people are in the workforce than before the pandemic.

This is holding back productivity and growth, and employers are at their wits’ end. It is putting livelihoods at risk and damaging the economy.

The Government must reform the SOL criteria to include more jobs at more skill levels to give firms breathing space to invest in their workforce. Employers cannot wait for a new Prime Minister to be appointed before this is sorted.

Shortages are impacting not only their ability to service order books but also the morale and wellbeing of their people.

Written by Emma Rawlings, chief executive at Somerset Chamber of Commerce