Firms are facing increasing problems finding workers with the right skills, according to a report by the British Chambers of Commerce.
Firms from the oil industry reported a lack of technical skills
Of 304 employers questioned in a survey over half found it harder to recruit skilled staff now than five years ago.
The BCC said the current educational and vocational system was failing to provide the skills businesses needed.
The Department for Education and Skills said no government had done more to improve skills.
However, the BCC called for more to be done.
BCC Director General David Frost said: "As the effects of globalisation are more widely felt, it is imperative that the UK workforce is highly-skilled if our economy is to remain competitive.
"The current education and vocational training system is failing to provide workers with the skills that businesses need.
"If this is not effectively addressed, UK businesses will be seriously disadvantaged."
Its report said that in the oil industry, firms reported a shortage of pipe fitters, riggers and technicians.
And a boss of an office supplies company told the BCC he had spent a year trying to hire someone - but complained that interviewees lacked skills and had an "awful" attitude to work.