Employers' attitude to skills has to change to enable the West Midlands to survive in tomorrow's globally competitive world, according to Mike Beasley, chairman of the West Midlands Regional Skills Partnership and Birmingham and Solihull Learning and Skills Council.
The stark warning was delivered at the second of three Centre of Business Excellence in Birmingham breakfasts held at Hotel du Vin and attended by more than 50 businessmen and professionals.
Praising the launch of CBEB, a Centre of Vocational Excellence (CoVE) collaboration between Bournville, Josiah Mason, Sutton Coldfield and Matthew Boulton colleges, he said: "It is fact that the West Midlands has one of the highest skills shortages in the UK.
"The challenge is to educate employers in the art of upskilling, giving them suitable routes and resources to recruit new employees, ensuring that the right people with the right qualifications are part of our workforce make up.
"The launch of CBEB and its subsequent progress are vital to the future success of the business and professional services sector in this region. CBEB has fantastic potential because it is building relationships with schools, colleges and employers to make a significant impact on the future of the professional services sector in this city."
John Wall, area director of Allied Irish Bank (AIB) and chairman of the CBEB. said: "At the moment, we have an imbalance in the workplace.
"The supply and demand pipeline is slightly askew regarding employer needs when compared to what colleges are currently providing.
"We need to encourage employers, schools and colleges to work together more closely to ensure solutions are pulled through the system rather than pushing solutions at the problem, hoping it will sort itself out.
"Creating employer groups through the CBEB should help steer the colleges in ensuring that the syllabus is relevant and advising them of necessary changes when required."
Mr Wall said regional development agency Advantage West Midlands (AWM) had come up with the cash for an additional three people to work with the existing CBEB team.
"I believe this reflects the importance that AWM and the region places on the CBEB and the necessity to get the right skills to keep the region on track for the forecast growth in the business and professional services sector," he said. n Too few bosses plan their succession, according to an AIB survey. It found that more than 43 per cent admitted they would only think of their retirement or withdrawal from the business about a year ahead, and only at that stage consider their own replacement.
Indeed, 65 per cent of businesses polled don't have a succession plan in place at all.
"This is clearly a question that too few owner-managers have taken time to consider carefully," said Karl Heffernan, AIB area director.
"It is understandable that people see the businesses they started as part of themselves.
"That's why our survey shows that 77 per cent of them expect to play some role in the running of the business even after they have left it.
"But managers also need to see that companies develop a life of their own, and that they should regard this as a measure of success."
Almost two-thirds expected their replacements to be sourced from within their businesses.
Sixty per cent said they expected there to be a process of delegation rather than a sudden switch.
"An internal appointment may offer the greatest degree of continuity," said Mr Heffernan.
"But sometimes the benefits of an external appointment, with a broad range of experience, may outweigh the benefits of inside knowledge."