Mass shortage of skills among British workers may stop UK businesses from taking full advantage of the economic recovery, a government agency has warned.

In a survey of 91,000 employers, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) found that around 22% of job vacancies in England were due to skills shortages.

The figure has risen from 16% in 2009 and poses a warning at a time when the UK economy is showing significant signs of improvement.

The Office for National Statistics revealed last Tuesday that the UK economy grew by 1.9% in 2013, its best rate since before the economic crisis in 2007. The overall number of job vacancies has also risen by 45% and is back to ‘pre-crisis levels.’

Douglas McCormick, a commissioner at UKCES and managing director of the engineering consultancy Atkins, said:

“”Whilst the rise in the number of vacancies is a good sign that the economy is recovering, there’s a real possibility that businesses might not be able to make the most of the upturn because they don’t have the right people.”

He warned that businesses need to act now to plan for future staffing or risk being unable to fulfill contracts. Mr McCormick highlighted the lack of training for staff in the UK, which hasn’t changed significantly for a decade.

A report by the BBC looks to the government to do more to equip young people with the skills and knowledge they need to take advantage of the increasing opportunities available.

Businesses also have a responsibility to ensure their staff are trained and to use staff skills productively, rather than employing highly skilled people for more menial roles as has previously been the case.