How Real are UK Skills Shortages?

Posted on: 30.03.2011    11:22:47

The coalition government plans to put a number of restrictions in place as part of a package of anti-immigration measures intended to cut the number of jobs open to non-European skilled migrants from 500,000 to 230,000 by 2015 –less than 1% of the UK work force.

About 5,500 more workers will be excluded from working in the country than in 2010 following the removal of eight jobs from the 38 currently making up the official shortage occupation list, which details the posts for which employers can hire from outside of Europe.

Other roles to be banned include high-integrity pipe welders, airframe fitters, electricity industry site supervisors, skilled meat boners and trimmers and skilled sheep shearers.

More than one million jobs were open to skilled non-EU migrants when the Migration Advisory Committee produced its first shortage occupation list in 2008. The change means that the list will now mainly include skilled engineers, jobs in medical, nursing and veterinary professions, maths and science teachers, visual effects and computer animators and some ballet and contemporary dancers and musicians.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said: “These changes to the shortage occupation list will ensure that only skilled workers are coming to the UK through tier two of the points-based system. It will allow firms to bring in people with the necessary skills without migrants becoming the first resort to fill a wide range of available jobs.”

But other roles could also be excluded as the government has asked MAC to “review shortages across the entire labour market with a view to amending” the list. The removal of senior care workers and migrant chefs is likely to spark most anger, however.

The care industry claims that it already has major problems recruiting UK or European staff but you have to question how genuine these claims are in reality. What they truly mean is that international competition means that people will no longer work long anti-social hours for low wages. Matters are exacerbated by the cost cutting going on with Local Authority sponsored residents where the rates paid are close to being uneconomic. Is it a staffing issue or the business model that is wrong?

The government has gone further than MAC recommendations to keep 5% of chef jobs open to non-EU migrants while imposing stringent earnings and experience criteria, but the move is likely to spark fears that takeaways could be forced to shut up shop.

Non-EU migrants wanting to work as chefs will need to have graduate-level qualifications, with a minimum of five years’ previous experience in a role of at least equivalent status to the one they are entering. They will also need to earn a minimum of £28,260 per year after deductions for accommodation and meals. The Home Office also confirmed that skilled migrants from outside of Europe will now only be able to fill graduate-level jobs of any type. Whilst technically a doorway Employers will look elsewhere rather than fight their way through a Tier 2 application.

“It is much to do about nothing at the end of the day. It is a political gesture and anybody genuinely wanting staff can find them given a bit of effort, time and offering the right terms and conditions”, commented Chris Slay.” International competition for talent has increased with working in Australia being particularly popular at present but demand from Polish Workers to come to the UK remains strong but the general demand isn’t there at the moment. Isolated requests come through from employers looking for workers to do the jobs that Brits won’t do but most think it will be a cheap alternative and back off when they hear the rates”

So how real is the UK skills shortage?


Author: Peter Arkwright

Skills Provision will allow our articles/quotes to be reproduced on other formats as long as full accreditation is given.