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Survey challenges idea that UK firms ignore local labour

Employees from the EU and beyond instead help to bridge the national skills gap

The annual workforce survey has revealed that only 8% of UK businesses actively look overseas to fill vacancies despite half having faced skills or labour shortages in the past year.

Most attempt to address the issue by increasing investment in recruitment and training, as well as enhancing pay and benefits.

Released by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) in partnership with Middlesex University, the survey also highlights the diversity of the nation’s workforce.

Over 40% of businesses surveyed employ staff from other EU countries, while 23% have employees from outside the EU.

Crucially, firms report that the diverse skillsets of non-UK workers help to offset a national shortage – over two fifths are skilled manual and technical workers, while a similar proportion operate in managerial or professional roles.

David Williams, Director of Corporate Engagement at Middlesex, says that substantial planning and support is vital for the UK to compete in a global business environment post-Brexit.

“Our international academics and staff add huge value to our local workforce through their diversity of knowledge and skills, while our international students spend over £13m per year in the local economy.

“Going forward, it is essential that we get clarity around the rights of EU nationals and wider immigration policy, but also support for businesses to develop, upskill and retain their workforces through schemes such as apprenticeships.

Jane Gratton, Head of Business Environment and Skills at the BCC, says that the UK’s future immigration system should be economically responsive so that companies have access to the skills they need.

“While companies rarely target workers from outside the UK, the internet allows people from all over the world to see and apply for opportunities here. Many of our businesses benefit from having a diverse workforce with staff members from across the EU and beyond, bringing with them a range of skillsets.

“A significant minority of UK firms say they will be negatively affected by restrictions to this pool of talent. As the Migration Advisory Committee looks at the UK’s immigration system going forward, it must bear in mind the needs of businesses.”

The annual workforce survey is based on the responses of over 1,400 businesses across the UK.

Read further findings on how UK businesses address skills or labour shortages

Find out more about degree apprenticeships

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