The Cork Chamber recently released its Economic Trends report for the final quarter of 2023, with skill shortages being a challenge identified by the report. Photo: jamie O’Sullivan.

Cork Chamber report: growth amid skills challenges

On a positive note, the report highlighted that Cork continued its growth trajectory throughout the past year, especially in the city centre with projects like the Docklands on the horizon. There were also notable investments and expansion plans from major players, such as PepsiCo announcing a €39m expansion in Little Island and Grant Thornton adding 150 new jobs in Cork.

However, the report identified a key challenge for businesses in the form of skills availability, which poses a threat to continued growth. The survey delved into skills gaps breakdowns, revealing widespread challenges across various sectors. Notably, science, engineering, and technology professions faced acute skills shortages, while finance, marketing, sales, and customer service also experienced significant deficits.

Looking ahead, 64% of respondents expressed concern about the likelihood of skills shortages persisting over the next 12 months, with 21% deeming shortages very likely and 43% considering them likely. The survey highlighted that 38% of respondents anticipate acute skills deficits at the junior/executive level, while 57% foresee challenges at the mid/management level.

The survey identified that businesses are actively addressing these challenges through upskilling and reskilling initiatives, remote/hybrid working strategies, and digitalisation and automation efforts. Confidence in the Irish economy remained strong in the fourth quarter, with 80% of respondents expressing a positive outlook.

However, rising business costs emerged as the top reason for a lack of confidence, cited by 21% of business respondents. Housing supply (20%) and inflationary pressures (13%) closely followed as contributing factors.

In terms of the labour market, 41% of business respondents had vacancies advertised in Q4, and 39% reported difficulties in filling them, remaining unfilled for over three months since initial advertisement. Despite these challenges, 47% of respondents plan to increase employee numbers over the next 12 months, while only 1% expect a decrease.