Talent acquisition: Is there a Brexit effect?

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Written by Lizzie Crowley on 15 September 2017

A lack of clarity remains over the shape of UK immigration policy post 2019. However, the recently leaked document has raised concerns amongst UK businesses, particularly for those have become reliant on EU migrants to fill low-skilled roles. Whether these proposals become reality or not there is a pressing need for businesses to start preparing now for this uncertain future.

EU migrants currently make up around 7% of the UK workforce, and for many employers access to EU labour has enabled their businesses to get the talent they need to thrive and grow. Whilst many sectors rely on EU migrants to fill high-skilled roles this recent survey has shown that low-skilled sectors such as wholesale, retail, and hospitality are particularly reliant on non-UK skills.

Yet, we found little evidence that employers were choosing migrants because they were cheaper or required less training; in fact the main reason identified by employers in these sectors for recruiting EU nationals was because of a lack of UK-born applicants.

As uncertainty around the outcome of Brexit negotiations continues, employers must start to think strategically about how to build their talent pipeline.

In fact, research has found that employers who recruit migrants are more likely to offer training opportunities to their existing staff than employers who don’t.    

As uncertainty around the outcome of Brexit negotiations continues, employers must start to think strategically about how to build their talent pipeline. Encouragingly, many employers are doing just that. Our survey showed that employers are looking for ways to meet their skills’ requirements and increase their labour supply through investing in their current workforce and creating new opportunities for young people.

Over half of employers say their organisation is upskilling their existing workforce to meet future needs, and almost two in five are offering apprenticeships.

Yet, there is considerable variation in the preparedness of businesses with SMEs, in particular, likely to struggle to respond. A recent evaluation of a pilot project which aimed to boost the people management capabilities of small firms found that many lacked the knowledge, capability or support to think more strategically about the future needs of their workforce and don’t know where to turn for help and guidance.

Whilst the future of UK immigration policy still remains unclear, what is certain is that now is the time to put in place the building blocks to be able to respond in an agile way, however the future looks. This means, amongst other things, laying the groundwork for workforce planning now, to ensure that you can meet the current and future skills needs of your business.


About the author

Lizzie Crowley is skills policy advisor at the CIPD and she can be contacted at e.crowley@cipd.co.uk


TJ and Dods Training are running a number of events around Brexit and its impact on organisations and their people. The first is a webinar on 23 November, a short conference session at the TJ Awards’ Conference on 5 December and a full day of learning, debate and discussion on 30 January 2018. To find out more email debbie.carter@trainingjournal.com or tina.seth@dodsgroup.com

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