Making migration work for manufacturers: accessing skills in a post-Brexit world | EEF

Making migration work for manufacturers: accessing skills in a post-Brexit world

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Today, EEF has published a new report – Making migration work for manufacturers: accessing skills in a post-Brexit world. Today I blog on some of the key findings from the report……



Manufacturers’ reliance on EU nationals

  • Over three-quarters (76%) of manufacturers have at least one EU national working in their business.
  • On average, EU nationals make up 11% of the manufacturing workforce, with UK nationals making up 87% and non-EU nationals the remaining 2%.


The size and geographical split

  • Larger firms are more likely to recruit EU nationals than smaller firms and unsurprising have a stronger presence of EU nationals. Just under half (48%) of the smallest companies had no EU nationals.
  • There is a strong geographical variation – with EU nationals more likely to work in manufacturing companies in Greater London & the South East and the East Midlands, and less likely to work in the North East, Scotland and Wales.


EU nationals fill job roles across the manufacturing workplace

  • EU nationals fill job roles across the business
  • Manufacturers are most likely to recruit EU nationals to fill process, plant and machine operative roles, skilled trades and associate professional and technical positions (e.g. engineers).
  • These job roles are also where the greatest number of EU nationals work in the business.



There are not enough UK applicants or people with the right skills available

  • 64% of manufacturers recruit EU nationals because they have an insufficient number of applicants applying for their jobs
  • A third say that the skills their business needs can’t be found among UK nationals
  • Others are recruiting EU nationals because they have a better work ethic, have foreign language skills are because they are part of the company’s intra-company transfer programme.


Has the referendum made the skills challenge worse?

  • When we surveyed members soon after the EU referendum a quarter (26%) expected to face difficulties in attracting EU workers and almost one in three (28%) expected a  loss of skilled EU workers.
  • In reality, the impact has been limited to date with just 16% saying they’ve seen an increase in the number of EU nationals leaving their business since the referendum.
  • However, 26% have seen a decrease in the number of applications from EU nationals.

Will Brexit exacerbate the skills challenge?

  • Applying the same, or similar, restrictions to EU nationals as applies to non-EU will be significantly damaging.
  • Any salary threshold similar to that applied to non-EU nationals would see employers struggle to recruit EU nationals in key areas.
  • Placing time-restrictions on how long EU nationals can stay in the UK would also impact businesses decisions on whether or not they would continue to recruit EU nationals.

What do we want to see from Government?

Brexit and migration is high on the Government’s priorities list, and its high on ours two. Our report makes a number of recommendations including:

  1. Clarifying the reciprocal rights of EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in other EU members states.
  2. Enabling industry to continue to recruit low-skilled EU workers until the UK labour market is able to support businesses demand for these workers.
  3. Allowing skilled workers to come to EU to work for up to 5 years and then be able to apply for permanent residency.
  4. Allowing global companies to recruit and move mobile employees through intra-company transfer programmes and posting employees to and from EU member states.
  5. Encouraging EU nationals to come and study in the UK and have the opportunity to seek work upon completion of their studies.

You can read our full recommendations and the detail behind today’s blog by reading the full report here.


Head of Education & Skills Policy

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