SMEs suffering from shortage of skilled workers

When Skilled Workers Are in Short Supply

Around 90,000 SMEs in Switzerland are acutely affected by a shortage of skilled workers. What are you doing about it?

Whether a company thrives, can react quickly to challenges, and be innovative depends a lot on the quality of its employees. But suitable skilled workers aren't always easy to come by. According to our survey, over half of recruiting SMEs in Switzerland have difficulty finding suitable candidates for their vacancies.

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Around a quarter of companies surveyed are even affected acutely by a shortage of skilled staff; extrapolated to Switzerland, that is around 90,000 SMEs. The companies are reacting differently to this challenge. Recruitment abroad is certainly not the only option, although larger companies and those in the border regions often cast their sights across the border when searching for staff in order to benefit from a larger pool of skilled workers. The number one strategy for meeting the need for skilled workers is the training and development of existing employees. Around 80% of companies support training measures in their own business, and more than half of them train apprentices. The quality of the Swiss education system and the important role of dual vocational training are emphasized once again. However, there are also critical voices: Around a quarter of companies surveyed said that the education system only serves their needs to a moderate extent. In the future, however, it will be increasingly important for courses to be more focused on the rapidly changing requirements of the economy.

With digitalization and automation, job descriptions will change and new careers will come about. While one in four SMEs is currently investing in digitalization as a way of dealing with a shortage of skilled workers, around 40% expect this development to lead to an increased demand for workers with specific specialist knowledge in the coming years.

Another challenge that SMEs have to face in Switzerland is the aging population. Already in the next five to ten years, the populous baby-boom generation is going into retirement and companies will be faced with (at best) a stagnating and aging work force potential in the future. In light of this, employing older members of staff beyond retirement age, for example, seems to be a clear option, though only around a quarter of SMEs surveyed practice this. Many companies who do take this approach have, however, had good experiences with it. This is confirmed by the participants of our round-table discussion, which enhances our study with opinions and experiences from daily company life.