As the UK faces the reality of leaving the European Union (EU) at the end of January 2020, albeit with the protective net of a transitional arrangement, many will be keen to see how the government plan to ensure the flow of talent into the country once free movement ends. The existing UK Tier 2 Visa scheme will likely continue to be one of the main routes for workers to enter the country, whether under the general, intra-company transfer, minister of religion, or sportsperson visa category.
In this article, we will take a look at the top five industries which are most in need of non-EU talent.
One observation which is very apparent when reading the UK government's 'shortage occupation list' is the large number of roles in the science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM). These roles include:
This should come as no surprise. STEM-related skills, which cover an extensive scope, are and will continue to remain essential to the UK economy, indeed the global economy. The UK's own assessment of this demand, in a report entitled, 'Reviewing the requirement for high-level STEM skills', prepared by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), states,
"To reshape its economy around high value, knowledge-intensive activities within an increasingly competitive global economy, the UK must meet the growing demand for people equipped with higher level, economically valuable skills. In particular, ensuring that businesses have access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills is critically important since these skills play a central role in developing innovative products and services that can be effectively positioned in world market...the UK's economic future lies in high value, innovative and knowledge-intensive activities. To pursue this course a highly skilled science, technology, engineering and mathematics workforce is essential".
The UKCES report also defines a number of trends which are driving the need for STEM expertise, including converging technologies and cross-disciplinary skills, digitalisation of production, ICT development and the age of 'Big Data', the shift to Asia, growing scarcity of natural resources and degradation of ecosystems, changing work environments.
The specific sectors which will see the largest demand for STEM expertise will include:
Anyone reading the shortage occupation list might be forgiven for thinking that the only demand for hospitality sector is for chefs. The list only includes executive, head, sous, and specialist chefs with an annual salary of at least £29,570. But what about the rest of the hospitality sector? The hotels and restaurants sector have the highest level of 'hard-to-fill' vacancies as a percentage of employment. Unfortunately, despite the apparent shortage of staff across the hospitality sector, many less-specialist hospitality roles, including cleaners, waiters, reception staff, bartenders, may not be able to consider the Tier 2 Visa route due to the minimum income requirement of £30,000, and for the employer to undertake a resident labour market test for the role.
The shortage occupation list includes a range of roles within the field of the arts, including arts officers, producers and directors, musicians, and dancers and choreographers. Unfortunately, not all talent in this sector is included. When it comes to music, the shortage list narrows the requirement to include only "orchestral musicians who are leaders, principals, sub-principals or numbered string positions, and who meet the standard required by internationally recognised UK orchestras. The orchestra must be endorsed as being internationally recognised by the Association of British Orchestras". Likewise, dancers and choreographers must meet the standard required by an internationally recognised UK ballet or contemporary dance company. While it may be true that the inclusion of artistic talent on the shortage list is relatively restricted, the fact they are included at all should be welcomed. After all, this was not the case prior to Autumn 2019 when the shortage rules for artists were relaxed, and the requirement to earn £30,000 removed.
Numbers for the current shortage of NHS staff vary, but highly respected believe that by 2030, there will be a shortfall of around one-quarter of a million healthcare personnel. The shortage occupation list currently includes paramedics, social workers, psychologists, medical radiographers, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, nurses, and medical practitioners. Unfortunately, the healthcare sector has been hit hard by austerity in the past decade, due mainly to cuts in public sector spending.
While it may be seen as some as an exaggeration to say that the NHS is facing an existential crisis, there is little doubt that Brexit is going to add considerably to the pressure being faced by the health system. According to the Kings Fund. "Brexit has created additional risks in both the short and medium-term. Already, a net inflow of nurses from the EU into the NHS has turned into a net outflow" (i.e. more EU nurses are leaving than are joining the NHS). Add to this other factors such as the ageing population and rising demand for healthcare services, and it easy to see why the medical and healthcare sectors will need to recruit heavily from outside of the EU in the coming decade.
By detaching itself from the EU, the UK must now open itself up to the rest of the world more than ever before. Brexit will not mean an end to the immigration of talent into this country; on the contrary, it will force us to reconsider our economic model and the people needed to drive it. The current Tier 2 visa system may need to be overhauled, or at least radically changed to enable the vast array of workers needed, of all skill levels, to come to the UK. The system will need to be efficient, friendly, and easy to use from the perspective of the applicant and employers. One thing is for sure, if it is done well, the UK will continue to provide a future for workers from across the world who represent a diverse range of industries, sub-sectors, some of which may not even exist yet. Exciting times are ahead.
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