North entrepreneurs upbeat on growth trajectory but say labour market skills are lacking

A survey of entrepreneurs by EY found nearly all expect to increase turnover in the next three years

Simon Whiteside, tax director and Regional Entrepreneur of the Year Leader at EY in the North East
Simon Whiteside, tax director and Regional Entrepreneur of the Year Leader at EY in the North East

Nearly all Northern entrepreneurs expect their turnover to increase in the next three years, a survey from professional services group EY suggests.

EY quizzed 51 Northern entrepreneurs of which 98% expected to increase their turnover in the next three years.

The findings revealed 76% of entrepreneurs in the North have increased their headcount in the past year, with 36% of these businesses creating more than 50 new jobs. Over half (59%) of firms surveyed expected annual growth of over 10%.

Businesses identified cutting red tape and spending on infrastructure as key action the government could take in making the business environment better for growth

Despite the positive sentiments, almost three quarters (73%) of Northern entrepreneurs admitted that they struggle to attract the right talent, compared to 77% nationally, with 57% saying that this is down to a lack of the right skills.

EY found that businesses in the North of England were behind only those in the South East and South of England region (63%) in citing lack of skills as the core reason for being unable to attract talent.

Simon Whiteside, tax director at EY in the North East, said: “Over the past 12 months the economy has strengthened, and this is reflected in the confident mood amongst Northern businesses. Entrepreneurs have been recruiting in significant numbers and seeing reasonable growth over the past year. But, more importantly, more than half are planning ahead for double digit growth.

“The North, like the wider UK, is open for business, and our entrepreneurs are leading the way in terms of increasing their turnover and headcount.”

On the issue of skills shortage, Mr Whiteside said: “Overall the future looks bright for Northern entrepreneurs, with many delivering strong performance in recent years, and expecting good times ahead.

“However, our survey highlights that while businesses are increasing headcount at a considerable rate and are expecting to grow even more over the next year, the right people may not be there to fuel that growth.

“For entrepreneurs to sustain their expansion plans, they need to demonstrate fresh thinking and an innovative approach to attracting talent from a global pool. This will help them stay ahead of the curve as the economy recovers and the war for talent intensifies.

“It’s clear that infrastructure remains a priority for Northern businesses. Entrepreneurs will be buoyed by the recent One North infrastructure proposals and the Chancellor’s vision for a ‘Northern powerhouse’, which we are likely to hear more about in the coming weeks and months.”

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