Could Brexit lead to a re-calibration of skills in the UK?
Brexit: the countdown has begun …
No self-respecting HR-Blog or Business-Blog could ignore what happened yesterday when Theresa May triggered Article 50 with a landmark letter which has now made exiting the European Union irreversible.
How will the negotiation proceed and what the final deal will be nobody can tell at this point, For sure, this will affect immigration and the makeup of foreign workers. And consequently the skills landscape within the UK.
WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR
What we do know so far, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), is that the number of EU nationals working in the UK fell in the last quarter of 2016 by 50,000 to 2.3 million in the final three months of last year. Adding to fears of a skills shortage. However, the data from the ONS also showed that there were still 190,000 more EU nationals working in Britain than during the same period a year earlier and 42,000 more non-EU nationals in work, with a rise of 70,000 employed UK nationals.
So, although the continuous news coverage and the different political agendas are talking about doom and gloom perpetuating a sense of insecurity, the statistics are showing perhaps the beginning of re-calibration with international and national talent.
Understandably, EU workers in 41% of British businesses have expressed some concern about their right to work in the UK after the exit from the EU. 5% of companies have seen resignations following the referendum, data from a survey of the British Chamber of Commerce.
RIGHTS OF EU NATIONALS
There is pressure from various political parties and public opinion to guarantee the rights to EU nationals unilaterally from a human point of view. I emphasise, heck, I am of European origin, so I do understand. However, I also believe that no PM worth respecting should neglect their duty first to protect British citizens abroad.
A SKILL POINT OF VIEW
From simply a skill point of view, let’s face it, highly skilled professional staff are a valuable asset. Ways can be found around immigration rules of any kind. Pre and post-Brexit.
The more significant issue would be low-skilled work/migration, which is likely to cause the most problems and require more flexibility from employers. And more reasonable expectations.
I believe that proactive workforce planning will be crucial for businesses. Building a talent profile needs to start now with more varied people development avenues to address and raise the skill gap.
Business (and HR) need to:
- tackle the supply of candidates
- consider wider demographics
- provide a blend of skills (Apprenticeship with no age restrictions?), creating intergenerational training
- re-skill individuals and prioritise local talent, which might become non-negotiable in time.
Employers will need to explore all recruitment channels. And look at under-utilised groups.
A BIG WORLD
There is a big world out there. So although it might be problematic in the short term, Brexit could be fascinating in exploring the wealth of worldwide talents outside the EU – controlled immigration it does not mean any immigration after all.
For me, even more, exciting would be a proactive, coordinated effort between the private and public sector, education and government to create a flexible, modular and scalable workforce/education. And a consequent VISA allowance plan to address shortages in the country. Plan which is regularly reviewed and amended as needed.
Brexit will be the most significant HR Transformation programme ever. If used effectively, it could turn on its head all old paradigms about employment, employability – who can do what . And that could be exciting.