21 August 2018
Similar to the rationale above, if certain occupations are deemed ‘in need’, shouldn’t training be at the forefront of the Government’s programme to eliminate the deficit? The Government’s stated purpose for the Immigration Skills Levy had always been to upskill the local workforce to eliminate the need for overseas workers. However, as yet, we have not seen where the proceeds of the skills levy have ended up. Instead, the only discernible effect has been to act as a deterrent to companies sponsoring foreign employees.
The Government should earmark the skills levy collected for a particular sector to be reinvested in upskilling local workers in that specific sector. Once the supply of local workers meets the demand of business, then it would be sensible to restrict the entry of those particular occupations. For example, assuming that doctors and nurses are still under the current quota, the skills levy that employers have to pay when recruiting foreign doctors and nurses should be fully invested back into training the next generation of doctors and nurses to avoid future shortages. Instead, the current skills levy is merely a pot of money that no one fully understands where it has gone and why it is being collected in the first place.
The way to get businesses and industry sectors supportive of such moves as skills levies and other attempts to move away from the over-reliance on overseas workers is to demonstrate how the Government is being response to their needs and working towards a controlled migration system and a local workforce which meets those needs. Investments in the specific sectors of need will drive that business support (albeit having to pay for it for a period through the skills levy).
Obviously, waiting on the slow bureaucratic processes of government to do anything can be frustrating. (And of course, any programmes must be in line with the sentiment of the electorate.) Businesses should not simply await a government solution, but should think proactively about what they can do immediately to avoid current deficiencies in the system and the shocks of any future changes in the rules or quotas.# What Can Business Do?
Proactive Planning Those of us in leadership or human resources roles within businesses are continually looking at the health of the company, staffing needs, upcoming projects and long-term business growth. The research and analysis we do then translates into our internal financial forecast, hiring plans and project plans. However, we often do not include the number of overseas workers that we may need to hire or consider the impacts of immigration strategy. In fact, in most circumstances, we will only deal with ‘the visa issue’ when it lands on our desks.
Leadership and HR must become more proactive and strategic in our thinking about workforce and immigration. As such, we believe that organisations ought to conduct regular audits, both nationally and internationally (of course, keeping GDPR compliant) on the demographics of its workforce. In the age of globalisation, it should not be surprising that you will find a long list of current employees elsewhere in the world that may be dual UK nationals and thus eligible to work in the UK.
In the same instance, it may also be beneficial to conduct a detailed analysis of whether your workforce may qualify under immigration routes other than the Tier 2 route, including private and individual visa routes. For example, the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent, or routes based on family ties, may allow foreign nationals to enter the UK to work without the need for sponsorship.
Doing this type of analysis ahead of time, and having such data on hand, will be invaluable for your planning and allow you to mobilise individuals within a short period without worrying about whether there is a need for sponsorship.
Don’t Forget the Graduates Identifying top talent has always been at the forefront of most talent partners with whom I have worked. However, in my experience, only a minority of businesses fully utilise student migration routes. The quota system limits overseas workers coming to the UK to work permanently, but it does not limit students who have graduated from colleges and universities in the UK and looking to begin full-time employment.
Active recruitment of graduates can therefore post both short-term and long-term benefits in filling the skills gap. Moreover, as UK immigration rules permit a slightly lower salary threshold for ‘new entrants’, businesses can utilise this model without the need to be overly concerned with the ever-increasing salary threshold.