Interim findings of a staffing and pay review suggest that up to one in seven people are leaving their jobs every year.
The survey, by research consultancy ORC International, was commissioned by the forum of unions and employee bodies that is working on a formula to distribute the Government's pound;50 million pay rise for lecturers - it has vowed to get "something for something" in the move.
Turnover averaged 8.9 per cent among teaching staff, 9.9 per cent in management and 13.6 per cent among support staff, with a handful of colleges losing a third of their staff in a year.
On average, 3.7 support staff posts per college were vacant for three months or more, with 2.7 teaching and 1.5 management positions lying unfilled for the same period.
Recruitment t engineering, information technology and construction jobs was hardest, with more than half of all colleges reporting difficulties. Humanities, hotel and catering, and health and community departments reported least problems in finding staff.
The single most important factor discouraging people from working in colleges was pay. Higher salaries in schools, sixth-form colleges and the private sector were cited by more than 70 per cent of colleges for recruitment problems. But nearly as many said local skills shortages were to blame.
Sue Dutton, the Association of Colleges' deputy chief executive, said:
"There is an even more acute staff shortage among management and support staff than there exists for lecturers.
"There is difficulty in recruiting people right across the board. One of the reasons for that must be that there are more opportunities and competition in the private sector for trained management staff."