More than half the UK's small and medium-sized businesses have had problems recruiting good people in the past year, with low standards of education and a lack of vocational experience largely to blame for the difficulties.
Research carried out by the Tenon Forum, an independent think tank of entrepreneurs, revealed that academic qualifications were viewed as far less of an issue by SMEs than poor vocational standards and a lack of relevant experience.
While only one in 10 firms were worried about qualifications, more than six out of 10 reported that gaps in vocational experience were a significant concern.
The bi-annual research conducted by GfK NOP on Tenon's behalf, questioned managing directors, financial directors, and senior directors of 500 SMEs.
Worst hit by recruitment problems were the transport and communications industries, where two-thirds of businesses said they'd had problems. Six out of 10 construction firms also said the last 12 months had been hard for this reason.
Recruitment difficulties were most pronounced in the North West, North East, Yorkshire and Humberside, where almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of firms said that they had struggled to find adequately qualified or experienced staff in the last year.
Richard Kennett, Chairman of the Tenon Forum, said that figures were a major concern.
"There are so many other issues for business owners to worry about at the moment that this is simply adding to their burden.
"What is interesting is that while 27 per cent of firms are blaming poor standards of education and experience, there are obviously other major barriers to finding the right people.
"Tenon has over 30,000 clients who are mostly owner-managers of businesses themselves. They're telling us that the huge cost of recruitment and risks associated with hiring the wrong people, make it minefield, particularly at a time when maternity and paternity legislation is likely to change."