Business confidence has returned to the UK after entering its strongest position in 18 months.

Taken from expected sales, orders and profit forecasts over the next six months, the Lloyds Bank index has indicated that Britain remains open for business. Despite slow economic growth in the first quarter, the index rebounded to 24% – up 12% following last year’s decision to leave the EU and above its historical average. The report, which surveyed 1,500 businesses, highlighted concerns of an acute skills gap with over half signalling difficulty in hiring skilled labour.

What does this mean for agency recruitment?

Business confidence goes hand in hand with hiring intentions which means demand is about to enter a gold rush. Political and economic uncertainty has been shelved as businesses rush to secure skilled international talent before Brexit negotiations are concluded. The Recruitment Employment Confederation also indicate that over a third of employers are operating at full capacity and will need to hire to accommodate more work. Both the need and the confidence to hire are there but does the ability to place during a skills shortage?

Jaguar Land Rover became the latest heavyweight to announce major growth, with plans to hire 5,000 technical staff and engineers over the next 12 months. This follows Google, Apple, Dyson, Amazon and Facebook’s plans to expand their UK operations over the next year. Agencies with access to talent, especially in STEM sectors that rely on European workers, will become a lifeline to businesses.

Chief Executive of the REC, Kevin Green, suggests that addressing the skills crisis should be at the forefront of Brexit discussions:  To build a pragmatic post-EU immigration system that reflects the needs of businesses in different sectors and regions.    Who better to lead this than specialist search agencies? According to research from Engineering UK, there is demand for 1.8m engineers and qualified technicians by 2025. This would create an estimated shortfall of 20,000 workers each year which means businesses need to think outside the box to find talent. Agencies can’t afford to fish in the same pools and will need to enlist the help of external recruiters with the broadest and deepest pipelines.

Who will then need to meet their needs by extending their pipelines globally and across sectors.

It appears that businesses remain confident despite the shifting political and economic sands in the UK and wider global climate.

Uncertainty over the future of migrant labour and a growing brain drain are turning businesses to agencies with deep rooted international pipelines.