One in five workers in Sussex has no qualifications, according to a report published today which urges businesses to invest heavily in training.

A rapid surge in low and high skilled jobs is expected over the next five years, according to the annual economic review (AER) produced by Sussex Enterprise.

Employers are warned they will need to invest heavily in staff training schemes if they want to fill vacancies with suitable workers.

About 5,000 professional positions and 4,700 service industry jobs will be created before 2009 but businesses are struggling to recruit appropriate staff.

There are signs they are responding to the challenge, however, with more taking advantage of nearby universities and colleges.

Internet travel company AirMiles Travel, based in Crawley, has joined forces with Brighton University to provide an extensive training package for its 300 staff.

Other companies are forging similar links, often through centres of vocational excellence, but the report says more need to follow suit to avoid serious problems.

Lack of investment in the transport infrastructure in Sussex has added to the problems facing the Sussex economy, the AER states.

Steven Gauge, director of membership and communications at Sussex Enterprise, said: "There are clear constraints on growth but the South-East is still the best performing economy in the UK outside London and there are encouraging signs Sussex will experience continued economic growth.

"The clear message is our economy will continue to thrive only if the Government stops ignoring us and commits to investing in skills, transport and housing."

The AER predicts the county's economy will continue to grow at a faster rate than the UK as a whole with gross domestic product rising by 2.9 per cent this year.

The coastal West Sussex area - Adur, Arun, Worthing and Chichester - is set to experience the greatest amount of growth.

Brighton and Hove's economy is growing steadily but unemployment, at 2.9 per cent and mainly concentrated in the east of the city, is higher than the Sussex average.

The Horsham and Crawley area has the highest level of economic activity, with Crawley home to a large number of multinational firms. House prices here have increased by 12 per cent in the last year.

Central eastern Sussex, from Lewes to Eastbourne, has big public and service sectors and lower earnings.

Manufacturing is prominent in Eastbourne and the unemployment rate is below average at 1.4 per cent.

The 1066 area of Hastings and Rother does not share in the prosperity of the rest of the South-East and is one of the Government's priority areas for regeneration.

Thursday April 08, 2004