Penalties for employers who recruit overseas is not the answer to funding apprenticeships

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A new government is now in place so it’s a time for keynote speeches, announcements, the Queen’s Speech, the upcoming Budget and Spending Review.

When the Prime Minister gave his first speech, I heard apprenticeships and skills and felt all warm and fuzzy inside.

But my warm, fuzziness soon faded out when I heard the words in a subsequent speech on immigration.

“…We will ask the Migration Advisory Committee to advise on significantly reducing the level of economic migration from outside the EU.”

I held back on writing a Verity-rant-style blog – instead awaiting further information from the Queen’s Speech, hoping that the detail would soften the blow.

Two words – wishful thinking.

The Queen’s Speech not only confirmed the announcement by the Prime Minister to reduce the number of job roles on the shortage occupation but went even further –

“A consultation will be carried out on funding apprenticeships schemes for British and EU workers by implementing a new visa levy on businesses that use foreign labour…”

One word – bonkers.

Let me put two stats to you.

  • 75% of manufacturers offer apprenticeships to acquire the skills their business needs

  • 11% of manufacturers recruit from outside of Europe to acquire the skills their business needs

The stats clearly speak for themselves. What’s more is that those 11% of employers that, when required, do recruit from outside of Europe are typically those that are massively investing in apprenticeships….and graduate recruitment programmes, and up-skilling their existing employees and generally engaging with schools, colleges and universities.

Penalising employers that, when skills shortages are rife – as they are in manufacturing and engineering – need to look to the global talent pool to find the skills they need – is not the answer to gaining more ‘home-grown’ talent.

Government is better off focusing its efforts on addressing the misgivings of our education system. Ensuring young people have the skills, knowledge and competences to work in sectors such as manufacturing and engineering.

This is of course a long-term problem and requires a long-term solution. It won’t be addressed overnight, and neither do employers expect it to be – but they don’t expect the government to then cut off its access to the global talent pool.

And as for reducing the number of job roles on the shortage occupation list – well I can’t put it more simply by highlighting that it’s pretty self-explanatory – they are on there….because there’s a shortage!

And they aren’t job roles picked out of a hat. The Migration Advisory Committee is well respected for its in-depth analysis. Any stakeholder who submits evidence to the MAC (who already undertakes a review of the list every other year) will know that they have high expectations of what a stakeholders evidence should be and if there isn’t enough evidence on the job role being in short supply – it ain’t making it on the list.

Ranting about immigration policy on the blog is fast overtaking my ranting on careers advice. So my plea to the government - for the sake of our blog readers as well as myself – hold off announcing any more immigration policy that is simply bonkers for business.


Head of Education & Skills Policy

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