BUSINESSES across Redditch are failing to reap the benefits of the economic recovery because of a shortage of skilled workers, a leading recruitment expert has warned.

The alert has come from Paul Alekna, managing director at Redditch firm eResponse Recruitment, who says employers must seriously invest in apprenticeships and training to stay ahead of competitors in the UK and overseas.

His warning has been prompted by recent data released by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation.

Their latest survey has highlighted that the availability of skilled candidates for permanent roles has fallen at its steepest rate for 16 years.

Speaking as he prepares to launch his firm’s School to Skills programme – a new initiative which aims to encourage businesses to take on apprentices and develop young talent – Mr Alekna said that businesses must do more than ever to plug their skills gaps.

He said: “The recent economic growth and increase in the number of roles available has been fantastic but there is a downside.

“Across the country, and across various industries, there is an obvious shortage of appropriately skilled people which means that many firms simply cannot fill some key vacancies.

“That is exactly why we cannot allow the gap between supply and demand for skilled workers to widen further."

He added: “What we need to see now are businesses thinking ahead about the types of skills and people they are going to need as their businesses or key markets develop.

“Investing now in proper training and development programmes will tackle the skills challenge head on. They have to be able to train up their existing workforce to meet the demands and challenges of their customers and ensure that all their staff move with developments in technology and working practices."

Mr Alekna added that the £30 million programme launched by the Skills Minister Matthew Hancock aimed at getting young people into engineering was a welcome move but only small part of a bigger picture.

He said: “People are waking up to the widening skills gap here in the UK and it’s positive to see the government’s latest investment drive.

"But we need to look across all industries and encourage long-term investment in people and their skills."