NEW findings suggest that 44 per cent of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the south west believe that they will need enhanced digital capabilities in the next three years.

Of that number, 82 per cent feel they need to up-skill their workforce – with many citing difficulties of finding suitably trained staff and the level of investment required as potential stumbling blocks.

The figures come from the latest Close Brothers Business Barometer, a survey that seeks to canvass the opinion of SMEs across the UK on a range of issues that affect their business.

Paul Kimber, regional sales director for Close Brothers, said: “Our findings suggest that many local SMEs do not feel adequately equipped for the future and that many are concerned that finding staff with the appropriate skills will be a challenge.

“A recent paper published by 02, estimates that there is a requirement for almost three quarters of a million (745,000) additional workers with digital skills to meet the rising demand from employers and fuel the UK economy during the next three years.

“With this in mind, we need to explore how the South West can be prepared to compete in a digital global economy.”

Mr Kimber also believes that it is time for SMEs to look towards obtaining a more youthful work- force.

He added: “Perhaps it is becoming necessary for businesses to look towards the younger generation to help address the growing skills gap.

“By working hand-in-hand with the government, firms in the South West can help to tackle this issue and ensure that we have the skills required to compete on a global level.”