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Ross Kennedy comments in HR Magazine

Post-Brexit restrictions failing to plug low skilled vacancy gap

23 May 2023

Post-Brexit restrictions on hiring migrant workers have not led to employers investing more in the recruitment and training of UK workers for low-skilled jobs.

The introduction of the new points-based immigration system in January 2021 created restrictions on employing low-skilled migrants.

It aimed to encourage employers to hire more UK-born workers for low-skilled jobs and increase investment in skills.

In his budget speech in March 2023, chancellor Jeremy Hunt stated Brexit represented a decision to change the UK’s economic model from “one based on unlimited low-skill migration to one based on high wages and high skills”.

Yet CIPD research has found organisations that hired migrant workers since January 2021 were more likely to be investing in their UK-born workforce than those employers that haven’t hired migrant workers.

Employers that have sponsored migrant workers since 2021 were more likely than other employers to have hired apprentices (34% vs 23%), hired UK graduates (28% vs 14%) and introduced or increased investment in automation (23% vs 12%).

Ross Kennedy, senior client manager at immigration law firm Vanessa Ganguin Immigration Law, said political parties and press had unhelpfully framed the debate around post-Brexit skills shortages as a choice between hiring from abroad or the UK.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “The picture isn’t a dichotomy between employers that hire from abroad or those that train up a local workforce. It therefore can’t legitimately be said that the immigration system is taking opportunities away from resident workers.

“The post-Brexit landscape is one of some employers that have the resources to invest in sponsoring foreign talent and invest in training, while less well-resourced organisations are struggling to do either.”

In the CIPD research, the two main reasons employers hire migrant workers was because they have difficulty in recruiting UK-born workers to particular types of jobs or roles (37%) and problems with recruiting UK-born workers with the necessary technical skills (35%).

Just 15% of employers have used the points-based system to sponsor migrant workers, despite six in 10 employers having hard to fill vacancies.

Kennedy added: “Politicians keep saying that they don’t want immigration to be a sticking plaster solution to longterm skills shortages. Yet investing in sponsor licences to hire abroad and setting up training schemes are both burdens that fall on employers.”