EMPLOYERS are struggling to recruit degree-skilled workers, according to the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership.

The organisation says many firms in the town are seeing a shortage of higher educated staff in professional or managerial roles.

Every autumn young ambitious students move away from their home to a university destination elsewhere in the country. Around 18,000 bright individuals from Wiltshire set out to get a degree, but figures have shown that only 3,000 of them stay in the county to study.

John Mortimer, chairman of enterprise partnership, said: “In developing a strategy we identified a problem for businesses with a shortage in skilled labour, especially that of higher education options.

“Further education colleges in the county are supplying some of the education of higher learning but there is virtually none in subjects such as science, technology, mathematics and engineering. These are skills needed to be able to grow in our economy.”

He added: “The net outflow of talent leaving the area needs to change, but right now we have nothing to offer to attract students to Wiltshire. Improving university provision is an investment priority for SWLEP and we have set out our ambition to develop a multi-campus university.”

The partnership has plans to create a University of Wessex, although this is a working title. It will be a business-led multi-campus university that works with further education institutions and businesses to invest in education in Swindon and Wiltshire.

“Developing a multi campus approach means growing a university from the bottom up,” explained Mr Mortimer. “We think there will be a growing demand for high level skills in the county.”

Working with Higher Futures, which is a SWLEP project, the partnership plans to marry up businesses with students to obtain the skills needed. That way the companies will also be able to send their staff to the university, giving them access to higher level training.

In an Advertiser poll 81 per cent of readers wanted to see a university built in the town. More than 300 people took part in the survey.

The partnership anticipates Swindon could have a university within 10 years, but is concentrating on setting a direction first.

Previously when speaking about the idea of a university, borough council cabinet member for economic prosperity Oliver Donachie was supportive. But the authority has prioritised getting an Institute of Technology set up at Swindon College.

He said: “One of our top priorities is to continue to stand firmly behind the partnership bid for an Institute of Technology, led by Swindon College. If successful, the institute will be responsible for training more than 1,000 students including apprentices in subjects like advanced manufacturing, digital and computing and life sciences.

“This would bring great benefits to the town and we are committed to achieve this aim in any way we can.”