Majority of small business owners struggle to find the right skills

More than two thirds of small business owners feel applicants don't have the skills they are looking for, research finds.

Just under half (48 per cent) also say job candidates don’t have the right work ethic, according to a study by

The 2,000 survey respondents come from all sectors of small and medium-sized enterprises with the majority of employing between one and three people.

Some 77 per cent of respondents say they struggle to find the right kinds of people to work for them, with 4 per cent saying this is always a problem.

Yet nearly a quarter (23 per cent) said they never had any trouble filling vacancies.

More than a third (37 per cent) say they don’t have enough people applying for vacant posts and 15 per cent admit they would rather take on people that they know.

Although the apprenticeship scheme was established in the UK over 50 years ago, it seems that for some SME business owners, taking on an apprentice isn’t an option.

Despite 55 per cent saying there is a skills shortage in their industry, only 28 per cent of those surveyed say they had taken on an apprentice, with over half (59 per cent) saying that they hadn’t taken on an apprentice, although 13 per cent were looking into the scheme.

Of those who hadn’t taken on an apprentice over a third (40 per cent) say apprentices only leave the business when they are trained up, and 34 per cent find it is too much of an administrative burden to take one on.

More than half (52 per cent) of those businesses owners who had taken on an apprentice say they had done so as they felt a responsibility to teach skills to youngsters, and 22 per cent feel it is a great scheme as you get help to pay for training.

Lyndon Wood, CEO and founder of, says that despite many small businesses in the UK struggling to find the right skills for their companies they are still reluctant to take on apprentices.

‘Apprenticeship schemes aren’t just for building trades or hairdressers, these days apprentices can be in any sector. It is a great scheme that can help upskill your workforce and teach them about your business and industry,’ he adds.

‘I think [businesses] should look again at these schemes to add talent and loyalty to their workforce and ensure that the skills they have as a trade are kept alive.’

Further reading on apprenticeships

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.