A survey of UK SMEs has found that they cite an unskilled workforce as their greatest barrier to growth.

New research from the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA), found that the largest barrier to growth for SMEs in the UK is a lack of talent in the workforce. Almost half (46%) of the SME owners, directors and managers polled cited a lack of skilled workers as the biggest obstacle to growing their businesses. This is something that BIBA has called on Government to address in their 2015 manifesto, where they have asked for more support on apprenticeships and are encouraging schools and careers advisers to highlight the value of insurance apprenticeships to students.

The second greatest problem facing SMEs is government red tape (43%). BIBA, whose members are made up of mostly SMEs (75% have less than 10 staff members), has proposed a ten point plan in its manifesto to remove unnecessary red tape. This includes encouraging the Financial Conduct Authority to develop smart, clear and proportionate solutions that deal with issues relevant to small businesses like information overload and developing more tailored communication to relevant sectors of the market.

In addition, over a quarter of SME leaders (26%) from companies with 10-49 employees cited availability of credit as a barrier.

The poll, carried out by BIBA and conducted by Populus, also demonstrates that credit affects businesses with lower turnover the most – 30% of SMEs with annual gross turnover of less than £1m say that credit availability is a barrier to expansion.

Idrish Bhaloda, Manager of Manchester-based auto body shop, Barlow Street Motors said, “As a small business owner, I have direct experience of these challenges. One of the biggest obstacles to our growth is a lack of effectively skilled staff, which is crucial given the nature of our work. We are also heavily reliant on suppliers to give us the best deal and recently we have seen a rise in these costs, which are certainly a barrier for our business.”

Customers looking for suitable insurance can use BIBA’s Find a Broker service either on 0870 950 1790 or at www.biba.org.uk