EXPERTS are warning of a skills shortage to hit the Borders during the post Brexit years.

A comprehensive report on future employment trends in the region by Skills Development Scotland highlights a potential shortfall of people able to fill local vacancies over the next decade.

The impact of Brexit coupled with a fall in the working population of the region is expected to make replacing 17,400 workers over the next ten years much more difficult - leading to possible skill shortages.

There is also a warning within the pages of the extensive document over any loss of access to the Single Market for trading purposes given Borders exports in knitwear and high end cashmere.

And also the uncertainty of support for the agriculture and food production as well as freedom of movement of EU nationals following Brexit.

In the period up to 2027, the report warned: "The Borders is expected to have a 15 per cent reduction in the size of the working age population (16-64), whilst nationally the working age population is anticipated to decline by five per cent.

"Growth will be greatest amongst those aged 75+, within the Borders this age group will grow faster than the equivalent rate across Scotland.

"This projected decrease in the working age population and increase in the older population may prove challenging for the Borders."

SDS estimate that over the next ten years jobs generated as a result of people who retire, change jobs or move away will require 17,400 people - driven by replacement demand, with expansion demand overall expected to be a negative figure.

The highest current employing industrial sectors in the Borders are human health and social work activities, with around 8,100 jobs, and wholesale and retail trade with around 7,800 jobs.

The same sectors are forecast to still be the highest employing sectors in 2027, although they will have switched places, with wholesale and retail becoming the largest with around 8,100 and human health and social work having 7,900.

Next largest sectors for total employment in 2027 is forecast to be manufacturing (4,800 jobs), although this will see the largest change of any sector, declining by 800 jobs.

Agriculture, forestry and fishing will also decline slightly, but remain the fourth largest sector with 4,400 jobs, followed by construction (4,000 jobs).

As the sector composition has been changing, so has the occupational profile of the region, where there has been a significant reduction in the proportion in skilled trades and operative roles, as the manufacturing and agriculture sectors have declined.

These changes are largely expected to stabilise over the forecast period, although there are expected to be still fewer skilled trade and operative roles.

On a more optimistic note, the report says the introduction of the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency means providing dedicated support to the south of Scotland, in the same way as exists for the Highlands and Islands, should help.

The reports stated: "This focus should improve the level of investment in economic growth, enterprise, skills and innovation in the region as well as working in new ways with other partner agencies.

"There are proposals for a new Borderlands Growth Deal working with councils on both sides of the border to promote economic growth and competitiveness in the area including infrastructure projects and transport and connectivity, including improving the region’s digital connectivity and broadband speeds.

"The deal, working alongside the new South of Scotland enterprise agency, should boost productivity, innovation and growth."