EEF response to MAC call for evidence on EEA workers in the UK labour market

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EEF has today submitted it's response to the Migration Advisory Committee call for evidence on EEA workers in the UK labour market.

Summary of our response:

  1. Manufacturers rely heavily on EU nationals to fill jobs across the manufacturing workplace. On average, EU nationals make up 11% of the manufacturing workforce. They are typically recruited in plant, process and machines operative roles as well as skilled trades and associate and professional roles e.g. engineers. Therefore, manufacturers rely on EU nationals to fill skills gaps in low, mid and highly skilled posts.

  2. For some, recruiting EU nationals is an organic process with employers simply recruiting the best candidate for that particular job and not deliberately seeking overseas talent. Their ability to do this has been a result of the flexibility provided by the principle of the free movement of people, which has been a great success story and a major economic building block of the EU. This is in stark contrast to the complexities and costs that employers face when attempting to recruit highly skilled workers from outside the EU.

  3. However, there are many reasons why manufacturers employ EU nationals. At the top of that list, cited by almost two-thirds (64%) of employers, is an insufficient number of UK nationals applying for jobs within the industry. Manufacturers are not receiving enough job applications from the domestic workforce. It was also a common theme in our discussions with EEF’s manufacturing members that many do not receive any applications from UK applicants at all. It is not just a lack of volume from UK applicants but also the quality of those candidates. However, EEF members do not set out to recruit, specifically, EU nationals.

  4. A third of manufacturers say the skills they need cannot be found within the UK labour market. This chimes with other EEF research that continues to highlight the challenge the manufacturing industry faces in recruiting the right people with the right skills. Others cited reasons such as foreign language skills and work ethic of EU nationals.

  5. Manufacturers are investing heavily in their workforce. Over two-thirds of EEF members are currently offering apprenticeships, only 5% have never done so. Similarly, they continue to recruit engineering graduates, increase training investment within their existing workforce and engage in the next generation of workers by working with schools, colleges and universities. Our survey data already finds plans to accelerate such activity in the light of a reduction in job applications from EU nationals and an increase in EU nationals leaving their companies.

  6. However, these are long-term solutions to long-term outstanding challenges that will not be fixed overnight. As a result, manufacturers need to be access workers from the EU labour market on similar terms as they do now up until the end of a post-Brexit period of transition and thereafter.

  7. Any future migration system must be simple, transparent and low cost. It must not mirror that of the complex and costly non-EEA system. Moreover, this should also be the opportunity for the Government to review how the non-EEA system is working, or from our members’ experiences, not working. Recent decisions such as introducing an immigration skills charge and abolishing the short-term intra-company transfer route should be reversed. In addition, the post study work route should be reinstated.


You can read our full response below.





Head of Education & Skills Policy

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