CBI warns that recruitment problems caused by a skills shortage could damage prospects of returning to long-term growth

Long-term growth in the UK economy is at risk due to a lack of skills amongst workers.

That's the verdict of nearly 300 UK companies that were questioned by CBI/Pearson as part of its annual Education and Skills poll.

Some 39% of employers reported that they are struggling to recruit staff who have the advanced, technical STEM skills required for crucial jobs. And 41% of firms said they anticipate these recruitment problems to continue for at least the next three years.

Nearly half of those polled said they were worried about not getting high-skilled workers in the future overall and these concerns were felt even more strongly in key sectors such as manufacturing, construction and engineering.

The survey found that there remains a serious problem of poor literacy, numeracy and technical skills amongst many workers, with 48% of companies saying that they provided basic remedial training for workers, a figure that rose from 42% in last year's survey.

More than half (55%) of all employers polled said that school leavers do not have the right kind of work experience and key attributes required for a successful career.

The survey found that 54% of school leavers lack self-management skills, 41% do not have problem solving ability and 35% have a poor attitude to work.

Many companies called for reform in the school system to produce more rounded and grounded employees who have also been tested at an academic level.

Basic literacy skills amongst school leavers was a problem for 32% of employers questioned, 31% said numeracy skills were insufficient and 31% also said young people did not possess the appropriate technical skills.

A total of 294 companies that employ a combined total of 1.24 million workers were questioned for the survey.

The CBI has warned that a return to long-term growth could be at risk because of shortages in key industries, arguing that the Government's Spending Round, which is due to be announced next week, needs to safeguard the skills and apprenticeship budgets as far as possible, while handing more power to employers.

CBI director-general John Cridland said: "We're facing a critical lack of skills in some key industries, just as the economy starts to pick up. Long-term, sustainable growth will come in part from rebalancing towards high-value products and services, which demand much better technical skills.

"We need to boost our skills base urgently before the UK loses more ground. It's time to stop looking on enviously at Germany and build a system that works."

Copyright Press Association 2013