With more companies reporting a drop in EU applications for graduate, multilingual, and tech positions as a result of Brexit, it becomes clear that Britain should take a number of immediate steps to ensure Britain’s got talent.
In October 2017 I participated in an event at Fragomen offices with the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) Home Office and the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, to collect evidence from businesses on their needs and challenges in light of Brexit.
Prior to the event, we talked to 30 of our customers and contacts in order to better understand the business needs for early career employees in the UK, and below are the key findings we shared with the MAC.
Tech skills are key for SMEs, Startups and Large Corporates
One clear conclusion we drew from all companies, regardless of their size is: there is an urgent need for tech and digital talent.
180,000 EU employees currently work in tech in the UK and yet there is still a shortage. A number of companies solely based in the UK agree that the impact of this lack of talent is likely to result in delayed growth and a risk of losing out on new innovations to competitors. Multinationals who have a number of hubs around Europe are already looking to grow their centres outside Britain as they struggle to attract talent to the UK since the vote to leave the EU.
But tech talent doesn’t always come with high salaries
The solution the Home Office is considering is growing the current Tier 2 visa scheme to allow more highly skilled employees with big salaries to enter the UK. Whilst this sounds like a good solution, it has a huge flaw with regards to early career employees.
According to Benivo’s research, 15-30% of tech employees in the UK are early career and 50% of interns and graduates in UK tech programs are from the EU. Most of these employees won’t have the required salary and education levels to meet the Tier 2 visa requirements, resulting in a sharp drop in the amount of tech programs that can grow the future of UK talent.
It’s not only about tech - “Je ne parle pas anglais” - Overcoming cultural barriers
The companies we spoke with stated that language and culture skills are critical. There are some things that can’t be learnt as a second language and, for someone moving to the UK, these can be the difference between failure and success.
The range of industries and roles who raised this as a challenge is vast: Hospitality, Contact Centres, Business Development, Localisation and Telesales were the most prominent sectors. Considering that multinational companies often base their EMEA headquarters in the UK, there is a need to support clients in Europe and to sell to new clients.
As languages and culture often don’t translate to a high salary, and don’t require a specific education, UK immigration will need to adjust their criteria to ensure the UK has access to this important pool of early career talent.
It’s not about employee shortage, it’s about attracting the best talent
Perhaps the largest concern about the current immigration policy is that it’s centred around identifying a shortage in the UK market. While this may have been relevant for the traditional economy, it is out-of-date for the new economy.
In today’s economy anyone can choose a location, set up a business, and sell to the entire world. Therefore, it’s not enough to simply fill the shortage in order to build top companies; organisations need to attract the best talent if they want to compete globally. Hence, limiting the pool of talent will result in less choice for UK employers and a great challenge to compete on the global market.
Top talent needs to feel welcome
With a drop in EU candidate applications and further uncertainties around future migration policies, UK companies risk losing out on top talent from the EU, as they increasingly don’t feel welcome in the UK. Earlier this year I raised this important problem when I talked at Parliament, and as there has been limited government progress, companies should take the initiative to move forward.
If you would like to learn more or contribute to the Ultimate Guide to Attracting Talent in Light of Brexit, please register your interest here.
What can you do?
While there are talks about visas for under 30’s from the EU, as well as other solutions, it’s critical that you make your voice heard, so the Home Office can take your needs into account.
The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) is looking for evidence from businesses before the end of October 2017 and you can submit yours directly here. Alternatively, if you are short of time and would like to keep your details confidential, fill in our 3 minute form and we’ll pass the aggregated evidence to the MAC.