A desperate shortage of skilled works has seen two thirds (66%) of construction firms turn down business, new research has shown.

A survey conducted by the Federation of Master Builders indicates that small construction companies are struggling to find bricklayers, carpenters and plasterers to carry out work.

It also found that almost half have been forced to outsource work to third parties, rather than leave work unfinished.

Tony Passmore, chief executive of Passmore Group, said: "The lack of experienced multi-skilled workers is a huge concern for my business, as it could affect our future growth plans. We urgently need tradespeople that are trained in more than one area, such as plumbing, tiling and joinery for bathroom installations - but we just aren't seeing the candidates come through."

The Federation's survey of 8,500 firms showed that London has the biggest shortage of bricklayers and carpenters, East England is in short supply of plasterers, Northern Ireland has the greatest need for general labourers and West Midlands based firms need more scaffolders.

The Federation said that the primary cause of the shortage is a lack of available apprenticeships, but also cited pressure to stay in full time education.

Experts estimate that the industry needs around 35,000 new apprentices just to cope with demand, however in 2013 only around 7,000 apprentices completed their training.

Hayley Ellis from the Federation said: "We're aware that there is a desperate need for new apprentices to join the construction industry.

"We'd encourage those receiving their GCSE results tomorrow who feel unsure of what to do next to properly explore their options and consider the building industry – particularly through apprenticeship schemes."

The trade body claims that while the industry is perceived to offer low wages, by the age of 23 a bricklayer with five years' experience can earn up to £31,000, rising in some cases to £52,000 in London.