Matthew Hancock, the minister for skills and enterprise, said he has been designing a "skills system" to meet the demands of employers Reuters

Britain's economic future may be looking much brighter since the financial crisis of 2008 but an employment watchdog has warned a sharp rise in skills shortages could be holding the country's recovery back.

According to a report from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), the number of job vacancies in England has returned to pre-recession levels.

But the organisation said the so-called "skills shortage vacancies" – where businesses cannot find recruits with the skills required – are growing twice as fast.

"Whilst the rise in the number of vacancies is a good sign that the economy is recovering, there's a real possibility that businesses might not be able to make the most of the upturn because they don't have the right people," said Douglas McCormick, a commissioner at UKCES.

He explained: "This shows that businesses need to start thinking about planning their talent pipeline now – not waiting until they are unable to fulfil contracts because of a lack of skilled staff."

The Employer Skills Survey, which questioned more than 90,000 employers, found 559,600 job vacancies in England – up 45% from 2009.

But the research also revealed the skills shortage vacancies nearly doubled over the same period, increasing from 63,100 to 124,800.

Overall, skills shortage vacancies – which occur when employers cannot find people with the right skills and qualifications to do the job – now account for more than one in five of all vacancies (22%) up from one in six (16%) in 2009.

"Employers in some sectors report persistent skills shortages which is why I have been working hard to design a skills system that is rigorous in the training it provides and responsive to the needs of employers," said Matthew Hancock, the minister for skills and enterprise.

He added: "With a record number of people in jobs as our economy continues to grow we must have a skilled workforce equipped to work in a modern economy and compete effectively in the global race."