West Midland employers will lose out to Asia and other developing economies if they do not invest in their workforce now, an expert warns.
Mike Beasley, former managing director of Jaguar and now chairman of the Regional Skills Partnership, said Britain no longer faced competition from low wages alone.
He said: "We live in a global economy with China and India becoming major economic powerhouses, and Asia likely to rival America as the world's dominant economy by 2020.
"The competition the UK faces is no longer based just on cheaper labour, but also on higher skills."
Mr Beasley, who was speaking at the RSP's annual Skills Summit at the Hippodrome Theatre in Birmingham, said employers needed to act to ensure the region's business continued to prosper.
"The West Midlands has a strong record of innovation and in a number of industries our levels of investment in innovation outstrip the national average," he said.
"However, one-third of employers in the West Midlands say skills gaps are preventing their organisations from developing - we need to tackle this urgently."
Set up a year ago, the West Midlands Regional Skills Partnership aims to ensure that the supply of training in the region meets the needs of trainees, and employers.