A skills shortage is proving to be a big problem for many companies in Europe as the region begins to recover from years of slow growth. As Hayley Platt reports an aging workforce is partly to blame.
British Gas is training more than a 1,000 apprentices to become engineers. But only 4 percent of them are women. Natalie Foster is one them. SOUNDBITE: Natalie Foster, Apprentice service and repair engineer at British Gas, saying (English): "I wanted a hands on job, a job that would give me stability and good progression in life and this ticks all my boxes." The energy firm employs almost 30,000 people. It's one of the UK's largest apprenticeship providers. And it has an advanced training programme. But others don't and that's a problem. Across Europe there's a serious shortage of skilled workers. Last year the European Commission reported that four out of ten employers in the region were struggling to find workers with the right skills. A long period of low pay, high labour turnover and unattractive working conditions hasn't helped Neither has an ageing workforce, meaning many skilled workers have retired and not been replaced. Simon French is from Panmure Gordon. SOUNDBITE: Simon French, Chief Economist, Panmure Gordon, saying (English): "Clearly if businesses don't keep up that momentum then you have a competitive disadvantage vis a vis the rest of the world. Let's not forget that India and China are pumping out millions of graduates per year, highly skilled who can move into manufacturing and the services sector." Last year another report by McKinsey & Company showed 27 percent of businesses in 8 EU countries including the UK said a lack of skills was the major reason for not filling vacancies. In Greece 45 percent said the issue was a problem. And in Italy that figure was even higher - at 47 percent.