A SHORTAGE of suitably-qualified workers could put the economic recovery at risk, according to a new report.

The number of jobs available in England is now back at pre-recession levels, but businesses are struggling to recruit candidates with the right skills to fill them, a report by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills has revealed.

A survey of more than 90,000 firms, conducted by the Commission between March and July last year, found a total of 559,600 jobs on offer - up 45 per cent from 2009.

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But at the same time the number of skills shortage vacancies went from 63,100 to 124,800 in the same period - nearly doubling.

In total, more than one in five (22 per cent) openings are now considered skills shortage vacancies - this is when businesses cannot find candidates with the right qualifications and experience to do the job.

In 2009, around 16 per cent of vacancies fell into this category.

The report suggests that the problem is hitting some industries harder than others, with more skills shortages found in trades like plumbing as well as health and social care.

Douglas McCormick, a UKCES commissioner, said: "Whilst the rise in the number of vacancies is a good sign that the economy is recovering, theres a real possibility that businesses might not be able to make the most of the upturn because they dont have the right people.

"This shows that businesses need to start thinking about planning their talent pipeline now - not waiting until they are unable to fulfil contracts because of a lack of skilled staff."

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Employers, unions and government must each play their part in tackling the UK's damaging skills shortages. Businesses must increase their training budgets, government must expand and improve the quality of apprenticeships, and union learning reps must continue to remind staff that its never too late to learn new skills.

Neil Carberry, CBI director for employment and skills, said: "The flip side of faster growth is an escalating skills crisis. While this isnt surprising, it makes it all the more urgent to close the skills gaps in science, technology, engineering and maths to support the recovery."

Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said: "Employers in some sectors report persistent skills shortages which I why I have been working hard to design a skills system that is rigorous in the training it provides and responsive to the needs of employers."