Almost two thirds of organisations in Scotland (62%) are struggling to find people with the right skills. In particular, there is a shortage of specialist, entry level talent, including business-critical digital skills.

As a result, almost half of Scottish businesses (42%) think they will struggle to find people with the right skills in the next 12 months, with 36% saying skills shortages will continue to be a problem for the next five years.

These are some of the many findings of The Open University’s (OU) Business Barometer Report 2021. It’s an annual report exploring the UK’s business landscape across a range of sectors.

The good news is that over half of the senior business leaders surveyed in Scotland (57%) think apprenticeships and work-based learning are critical to their long-term success. This demonstrates that employers are increasingly recognising that the best way to overcome skills shortages is to pursue a strategy of upskilling and reskilling and to build up internal talent pipelines, rather than buying in skills on a needs basis.

The OU in Scotland has been collaborating with stakeholders and industry leaders to address skills gaps for several years, and continue to help through upskilling and reskilling programmes. It provides support and advice with workforce development planning, enabling employers to take a more strategic approach to meeting current and future talent and recruitment needs.

With over 20,000 students, the OU is the most popular university in Scotland for part-time higher education. It offers Graduate Apprenticeships in Software Development and Cyber Security, which are fully funded by the Scottish Funding Council.

For the second year running, the OU in Scotland is also providing funded training to SMEs up to the value of £5,000 through the Flexible Workforce Development Fund. It was awarded a £1 million grant to help SMEs overcome the challenges presented by Covid-19, adapt to new ways of working and embark on a policy of restart, recover and renew.

The pandemic highlighted the widespread need for better digital skills across the workforce. There is a strong Fintech sector in Scotland, but it too is competing for all-important digital skills. According to this year’s report, 61% of business leaders are finding it harder to recruit people with the right skills because of Covid-19.

Last year’s Business Barometer Report also identified strong demand for management and leadership skills, more so in Scotland than anywhere else in the UK. The OU is supporting Scottish employers in both areas – improving digital skills through the digital apprenticeships and through helping leaders with their digital leadership skills.

Find out more about how to unlock the potential of your workforce through the OU’s innovative solutions here.