The West Midlands needs leaders - and it won't happen unless skills are improved, a think tank has been told.
Nearly 70 representatives from Birmingham's public and private sectors gathered at a breakfast meeting at Hotel du Vin - organised by the Centre of Business Excellence in Birmingham (CBEB).
Promptly told the time for talking was over, it was nevertheless decided two further breakfast meetings should be held on October 4 and December 15 "in order to move the initiative forward".
At issue is how to bridge the skills gap of the future and approach the need for specific employee training.
Guest speaker, Karl George of accountants Anderson KBS, said: "Sixty per cent of businesses who work in our sector face issues with recruitment.
"The problem of recruiting the right calibre of people with the appropriate skills was identified years ago, and it is now time to stop talking and work together to rectify the situation.
"If we don't do this, we will not have the workforce required to fill 50,000 jobs over the coming years.
"In order to match the core and soft skills that each job requires, the private sector needs to liaise with further education centres so tailormade courses can be offered to provide specific training.
"Birmingham City Council along with the fire and police services has done exactly this, and we need to learn from them in order to nurture our employees in all areas of business." John Wall, area director of Allied Irish Bank (GB) and chairman of the CBEB, said: "Everybody needs to challenge the status quo for better leadership which will lead to a stronger and more focused workforce of the future.
"It is crucial that we bridge this skills gap, and it is about stimulating a response."
Beverley McGillycuddy, CBEB manager, said: "We need to work closely together with the colleges and the employers to ensure the colleges are offering the right courses.
"Otherwise, if we don't get the product right, the business sector will go into demise.
"The colleges are driven by a qualification framework but need to concentrate on soft skills and tailoring courses to suit the needs of the business community."
The meeting heard the sector needed to recruit young people who showed potential early - ideally just post sixth form - selected from all areas of the city's diverse mix of ethnic groups and then develop their skills in-house.
It was claimed Birmingham businesses needed to develop home grown talent and invest in skills, centred around specific training - so fostering a sense of loyalty and ensuring employees felt valued and therefore willing to stay longer.
Colleges needed to concentrate on providing basic skills training such as communication and interpersonal courses, neglected over recent years, while working with employers "to develop innovative and relevant industry training to meet future employment needs in the business and professional sector".
The CBEB is a collaboration between the four Birmingham and Solihull colleges - Bournville, Josiah Mason, Sutton Coldfield and Matthew Boulton.
Others attending the meeting included Derek Inman, chairman of Birmingham Forward; Helen Bradley, LSC cluster skills manager; Chris Grayson, principal of Josiah Mason College; David Garrigan, regional events manager, Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales; Neil Frankland, Mills and Reeves; Michele Thomson, national manager for the Financial Services Skills Council; Audrey Price, general manager at Birmingham Law Society; and Mohammed Hasan, chairman of Young Directors Forum at the Institute of Directors.