Most European employers (86%) cut or froze their investments in training last year despite ongoing skills shortages and must take urgent remedial action, business and political leaders converging in Brussels for the 2012 European Business Summit will hear today.

Skills will top the agenda at the summit, which will be attended by Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, Belgian premier Elio Di Rupo, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, with more than 1,000 European business leaders and policymakers.

But with the economic and debt crisis rambling on, the news are not positive on the jobs and skills front, the main theme of this year's summit.

Less than a fifth (18%) of 500 European business and government leaders polled planned to increase spending on skills and training over the next 12 months, but 43% admitted that they themselves faced a skills shortage and 72% said increased investment was needed for skills.

Unemployed should be classified better

Analysis in the report, conducted for the Federation of Enterprises in Belgium (FEB) by consultants Accenture, said that even with a modest 0.5% growth rate Europe would need seven years to regain employment levels last seen in 2008.

The report focused on untapped talent, poor labour mobility and a lack of cross-sector collaboration, with a view to seeing how these can be improved.

It claimed that employers treat Europe's 23 million unemployed as a largely homogeneous group and are failing to recognise or address the different challenges posed by older unemployed, or jobless mothers and youths.

Common recognition of skills required

While almost two-thirds of respondents agreed that Europe's skills challenges can only be solved through collaboration, fewer than half (29%) actually work with other organisations in their sector, the survey found.

Tailoring support to different groups within the labour market, increasing flexible working opportunities and developing networks among other companies in similar sectors are among key actions that the report recommended for employers.

Meanwhile policymakers must improve provisions for the common recognition of skills and qualifications across Europe and support the creation of partnerships between businesses and educational establishments, the report said.

The full survey results will be published at 11.00 Brussels time.