Skills shortages in the UK are at their worst level for 12 years, with more than half of companies reporting difficulties in finding skilled workers in the past year.
The Business in Britain study by Lloyds TSB found 52 per cent of firms had experienced sustained difficulties in recruiting staff.
More than a quarter of firms – 28 per cent – were experiencing similar difficulties in finding unskilled workers.
Regionally, firms in the east Midlands were facing the biggest challenge, with 62 per cent experiencing a shortfall in the numbers of skilled candidates available.
Peter Navin, banking director at Lloyds TSB Corporate, said: "Traditional employment pulls such as wages and benefits packages help maintain a competitive edge.
"By continuing to invest in management, training and resources, we can wage the war for talent with confidence."
Last week the Government launched a new strategy to address the issue.
Its white paper included creating a new National Employer Training Programme to provide free workplace training up to the equivalent of 5 GCSEs and setting up "skills academies" to provide industry-specific training.