Government must not restrict manufacturers’ ability to recruit international STEM graduates

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Today, we have submitted evidence to the House of Lords' Science and Technology Committee inquiry into international STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) students.

In our response, we firmly argue that the Government is acting unreasonably in restricting employer's ability to access skill non-EEA graduates. We also criticise the decision to abolish the Tier 1 post-study route and argue that the process of recruiting international graduates is time-consuming and burdensome, hampering employers' efforts to bring in new international talent into their company further.

Our own survey data shows that a quarter of manufacturers had recruited a non-EEA graduate in the past three years (Chart 1 below). There is not always a specific preference to recruit a non-EEA graduate, but often a result of not being able to access the skills domestically.

Chart 1:Manufacturers are recruiting graduates within, and outside of the UK, %companies who have recruited or plan to recruit a graduate

Source: EEF Higher Education Survey 2013/14

However, employers may seek to recruit non-EEA graduates for specific skill-sets such as language skills, particularly those that are seeking to tap into overseas markets.

One in ten manufacturers specifically plans to recruit a non-EEA student in the next year, with seven in ten saying they had never considered recruiting a non-EEA graduate. Whilst then manufacturers rely on international graduates, many do not tap into this talent pool.

This is most likely to be the case if the company is an SME, and may reflect the negative rhetoric surrounding recruiting non-EEA nationals or the real and perceived hurdles in terms of administration and cost of recruiting an international graduate.

There is a real need for Government to make it simpler for manufacturers to recruit non-EEA graduates, as this is currently not the case.

Over half of manufacturers (53%) found the process of recruiting very time-consuming.Almost half of manufacturers disagreed that the process of recruiting a non-EEA graduate was easy.Four in ten companies had difficulties securing a sponsorship licence.Almost half had difficulties obtaining the visa for the graduate.

Yet manufacturers clearly value non-EEA graduates as in spite of these difficulties, a positive balance of 22% of companies say they would definitely hire a non-EEA graduate again.

Chart 2: Manufacturers face challenges recruiting non-EEA graduates, % companies reporting ease of which they recruit non-EEA graduates

Source: EEF Higher Education Survey 2013/14

This reflects the value of knowledge and skills that graduates from outside of Europe can bring to the company, and also the difficulties companies continue to face finding high-level skills within domestic labour market.

Government must then make it easier for firms to recruit highly skilled international graduates, widening the talent pool, instead of restricting it.

  • Government should restored the Tier 1 post-study work route, which previously allowed non-EEA graduates up to two years to seek employment after graduating. This route was closed to new applicants in April 2012.
  • An alternative could be to introduce a route specifically for non-EEA STEM graduates, acknowledging that skills shortages within industries such as manufacturing and engineering are acute.
  • Government must also work closely with business to better understand the hurdles companies face when recruiting a non-EEA graduate, making easier for employers to access a wider range of talent.
  • Government must not seek to restrict graduate entry into the UK labour marker further. Restrictions have already been placed on students undertaking in-study work, and we call on Government not to make further restrictions in this area.

Read our full response here.


Head of Education & Skills Policy

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