A RECRUITMENT firm says the North-East's chemical and oil and gas sectors are continuing to face a worrying skills shortage.

First Class Technical Recruitment says a study of 3,000 workers showed more than 60 per cent are expected to reach retirement age by 2020.

The report revealed about 50 per cent of workers are aged between 50 and 59-years-old, which is more than the number of oil and gas staff aged between 20 and 49-years-old put together.

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According to the survey, just five per cent of the workforce are in their twenties, with 13 per cent of workers aged between 30 and 39-years-old.

James Gill, director of First Class Technical Recruitment, which has offices in Middlesbrough and Newcastle, said the report on the North-East's chemical and oil and gas industries, which employ more than 50,000 workers in the region, highlighted the challenge facing firms.

He said: “The skills base of the North-East workforce is often cited as one of the major reasons this region secures work from global industry.

“However, these figures signal a stark warning that the skills base is reducing dramatically as the workforce ages.

“Having a top heavy workforce can only be detrimental to the region’s industry.

“Investments in apprenticeships is still playing catch up and more than half of the over-50s age group is reaching retirement age.

“This leaves a significant gap in the workforce in the huge 20 to 49 age group where the oil and gas and chemical sectors require skilled and competent individuals.

“With effective re-skilling programmes, supported by Government and employers, as well as sourcing returning UK professionals from overseas, significant steps can be taken towards addressing this major issue for the North-East.”