The region’s critical skills shortage has been underlined by new figures revealing the West Midlands has the highest proportion of people in the UK with no qualifications.
The West Midlands is one of the regions with the lowest percentage of graduates at around 28 per cent, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Graduates typically have higher employment rates than non-graduates. At the end of 2011, the employment rate for all graduates in the UK was 86 per cent, compared with 72.3 per cent for non-graduates.
The average hourly earnings for graduates was £15.18 in 2011, compared with £8.92 for non-graduates.
Jerry Blackett, chief executive of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group, said: “The Birmingham Chamber has consistently called for skills to be at the top of every government’s agenda.
“A 21st century economy is based on the skills and ingenuity of its people. As we enter an age of unprecedented competition with emerging markets such as China and India it is vital that we re-double our efforts.
“The West Midlands has one of the lowest skills bases in the country but it also has some of the best universities.
“We need to ensure we get the basics right such as literacy and numeracy, which employers tell us is vital to the success of their business but often lacking in employees even at graduate level.”
The number of highly skilled jobs available to graduates differs widely across the country, with a quarter of jobs in the West Midlands in the highest skilled group.
Graduates are more likely to work in high skill jobs and therefore may be more likely to move to London for work, where 34 per cent of jobs are in the highest skilled group, rather than to regions where there are fewer high skilled jobs available.
Mr Blackett added: “We also need to ensure more and more children are studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics at university to ensure that we lead the world in these fields.
“Apprenticeships are also key to the success of our economy.
“Good quality vocational education will ensure that our manufacturers have access to the employees that they need to grow and will also ensure that we have a highly skilled workforce capable of competing in a hostile and competitive world economy.”
The percentage of recent graduates working in lower skilled jobs across the UK has rocketed from 26.7 per cent in 2001 to 35.9 per cent at the end of 2011.
During the recent recession the employment rate for those who graduated in the last six years fell from 90.2 per cent to 86.5 per cent. The employment rate for all graduates fell from 88.5 per cent to 87.2 per cent.
The unemployment rate for new graduates, those who graduated in the last two years, stood at 18.9 per cent at the end of 2011, much higher than the rates for those who graduated two to four years ago, 6.7 per cent, and four to six years ago, 4.4 per cent.
The unemployment rate for everyone in the UK stands at 8.4 per cent.