Over two-fifths (43%) of UK small and medium sized enterprise (SME) owners struggle to find the right people to recruit, according to Aldermore’s SME Future Attitudes report.

In the survey of 1,000 UK SMEs, Aldermore found that SMEs in London and the South East were affected by the skills gap the most, with 55% reporting that they had experienced difficulties.

In comparison, only 35% of SMEs based in the East Midlands reported the same issue. The construction sector was most affected, with 61% expressing hiring difficulties, and 39% of these stating that failing to find staff with relevant experience was the most prominent reason.

According to Aldermore, the UK’s withdrawal from the EU may ‘worsen’ the situation, with 22% of SME owners expressing concern that it could make attracting and retaining EU workers more difficult.

The bank said it may also risk endangering the growth plans of SMEs, stating that 16% of SMEs who expected revenue growth in the next 12 months said they planned to recruit new staff in order to boost production and grow revenues.

Carl D’Ammassa, group managing director, business finance, at Aldermore stated that improving skills, particularly digital skills, among their existing staff may prove useful to SMEs.

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D’Ammassa said: “One area that firms can focus on to close the skills gap is by supporting training and development for their existing staff.

“In particular, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has previously highlighted a shortage of digital skills as a challenge for many businesses and this is an area that we would urge the Government to continue to focus on.”