U.S. firms want to rehire; skilled workers scarce

NEW YORK, July 19 (Reuters) - Fifty-four percent of large U.S. businesses that laid off employees in the past year want to rebuild their workforces but some will have trouble finding sufficiently skilled people to hire, a study said on Monday.

The study by management consulting firm Accenture ACN.N found about half of large firms plan to return to their pre-recession levels of employment within two years and only 13 percent said they planned to reduce their workforce.

Moreover, those surveyed said they were less concerned about cost control. Companies focused primarily on cost control will decrease from 41 percent in mid-2009 to 18 percent in 2011, the study said.

U.S. companies focused primarily on investment in growth-oriented activities, such as hiring, will increase from 24 percent today to 37 percent within the next 12 months, Accenture said in a news release.

But companies also reported a shortage of skills within the workforce. Idled workers may have fallen behind on skills while out of a job, forcing them and employers to invest in training, Accenture said.

“The outlook is improving. But ... companies need to rethink how they equip employees with the skills required to be competitive today,” said David Smith, managing director of the Accenture Talent and Organization Performance practice, said in a statement.

“If you look at an industry like health care where the demand for IT (information technology) skills is growing so fast, there just aren’t that many people with the right IT skills,” Smith said through a spokeswoman.

Skills were particularly lacking within sales and customer service workforces, the survey said. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said their companies lack the skills required of their sales workforce, and 25 percent said a significant proportion of skills in their customer service organizations were out of date.

The study was completed from surveys conducted between January and May with 674 senior executives in 24 countries representing companies with revenues over $250 million. The U.S.-based results were taken from 117 respondents in the United States.

Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Doina Chiacu