Manufacturers need to employ and deploy people as freely as possible after Brexit

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Employers in manufacturing companies need ongoing access to workers with higher level and other technical skills from the EU and worldwide to maintain their ability to invest, grow and train in Britain, according to a new briefing paper from EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation.

In the first of a series of Brexit briefings looking at the impact of leaving the EU, EEF makes a number of recommendations designed to help businesses manage the UK’s exit from the single market and the likely changes in immigration rules.

According to the UK statistics authority, UK manufacturers currently employ 300,000 EU citizens, representing about ten per cent of the workforce. In its paper - A new model for migration - EEF argues that EU workers in the UK at the point it leaves the EU should retain their treaty rights. It also recommends that manufacturers be able to recruit highly skilled and experienced employees from the EU where the job is at graduate level with a salary threshold to be agreed with industry and a light-touch authorisation process.

Other recommendations include:

  • Employers should be able to recruit intermediate level employees where professional or technical staff are not readily available in the UK at salary thresholds agreed with industry
  • UK based staff must be able to move to and from the UK and EU states for training purposes with minimal restrictions
  • The UK must continue to allow students from the EU to enter the UK to study and create an effective route for them to work in the UK on completing their studies
  • Any EU-UK trade deal must allow for the UK and EU businesses to ‘post’ workers for short-term cross border projects lasting up to two years
  • The UK should consider a significant transition period for the introduction of new immigration rules to give businesses time to adjust.

While recognising that the UK will clearly need reasonable border controls after its exit from the EU, EEF says that the UK should still seek to retain the common travel area. Industry should be consulted on any system likely to be introduced to achieve this.

Tim Thomas, Director of Employment and Skills Policy at EEF, says: “The UK continues to struggle with chronic skills shortages and manufacturers will need to continue to be able to employ suitably qualified people from the EU when we leave. The fact that more than a third of the occupations on the Home Office’s shortage occupation list relate to manufacturing and engineering tells its own story. Our initial recommendations aim to support the Government to enter negotiations to achieve managed and fair migration into the UK after we leave the EU.

“The UK will of course enter negotiations expecting reciprocal treatment from the EU, and it would be reasonable to assume that UK nationals travelling to the EU would be subject to similar restrictions to EU nationals entering the UK.”

The full briefing paper can be viewed here.

10 key facts on skills shortage in the manufacturing industry:

  1. Three-quarters of manufacturers have struggled to fill skilled engineering posts in the past 3 years[1]
  2. There is an issue with the quality of talent with 68% of manufacturers saying applicants lacked technical skills and 61% saying applicants lacked experience[1]
  3. There is an issue with the availability of talent with 64% of manufacturers saying they struggled to fill positions due to an insufficient number of applicants[1]
  4. Three in ten (29%) manufacturers are not at all confident in filling the posts they have available[1]
  5. The number of hard to fill vacancies in manufacturing is currently 35%, this has been static since 2013 and has worsened since 2011[2]
  6. Almost three-quarters (73%) of manufacturers are concerned about their ability to access the skills their businesses’ need in the next 3 years[1]
  7. Manufacturers are investing in the domestic workforce – 63% plan to increase training spend in the next 12 years and 79% plan to recruit an engineering apprentice in the next 12 months[1]
  8. Manufacturing has an ageing workforce – two-fifths of manufacturers report that more than 40% of their workforce is over 50[1]
  9. While seven in ten manufacturers typically recruit apprentices aged 16-18 years old, ONS projections estimate a decline in the number of young people in the coming years[1]
  10. Manufacturers want the best person for the job – while just 9% plan to recruit a non-EU national in the next 3 years, 46% would if they were the best person for the role[1].

Notes to editors:

  1. EEF’s Skills Survey 2015-16
  2. UKCES Employer Skills Survey 2015

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