Business owners face increasing competition to secure highly-skilled graduates, according to research by Universities UK.
The report found that while 440,000 new professional-level jobs were created in 2016, there were only 316,690 first-degree graduates in the UK, leaving a recruitment shortfall of 123,310.
It estimates that by 2030, the UK will face a talent deficit of between 600,000 and 1.2 million workers, affecting employers in both the financial and business services sector and in the technology, media and communications sector.
This skills gap is expected to be driven by new and changing technologies, such as automation, robotics, artificial intelligence and digital technologies.
To meet the rising need for higher-level skills, the report argued that continued higher education and skill upgrading should be promoted among people of all ages.
Edwin Morgan, director of policy at the Institute of Directors, said:
"Not being able to find people with the right skills consistently comes up as a top issue affecting our members, so universities have a crucial role to play in filling this gap.
"A significant factor in the UK's low productivity growth is that firms aren't able to fully adopt and embed new technologies in their business models.
"In many cases this is because they lack the required skills. The government must therefore view education as an integral part of its industrial strategy."
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