Hello and welcome to today's podcast. On today's podcast, we are going to be discussing employers in the southwest of England. Joining me on today's podcast, we have Chris. Hi everyone. We have Pete. Hi. We have nizma. Now again, we have Dan hi everyone and myself, Francesca. Now, before we get started, if I can just remind everyone that's listening out there, whatever platform you're listening to this on, like share, subscribe, follow, whatever you can do, share the word, spread the podcast around. We want as many people to be listening to this as possible. So first of all, when we're talking about employers in the southwest of England, I think it's good to give our listeners out there a chance to know a bit more about how we kind of came to start looking and recruiting within the Southwest. So one of those areas for us has been part of the business called Acorn Recruitment Southwest. Now Chris, I think you're probably best placed to kind of give a bit of background and history as to how Acorn Recruitment Southwest came to be. Okay, well, the Acorn name was more associated with manufacturing than anything to do with recruitment. And there were businesses in Somerset and Devon in food and gift products, but we had a common problem and that was the difficulty to find people to work in low paid positions in the southwest of England. So Acorn was born as an in house recruiter, in part because of my arrogance and that I thought I could probably do a better job than the recruitment companies that were trying to supply us with labor. And at the time it was highly restricted as to where you could go for labor, which was basically only within the old EU countries. So none of the Eastern European countries. What sort of timescale are we talking about here, Chris? What year are we talking about? We're talking last century franchise. Right, okay. Probably sort of the late 1990s is when the real shortages hit in the UK. Somerset, which is where our headquarters are today, actually recorded the lowest unemployment rate within the European Union at 5%, which makes seem pretty cozy that we've got 3.7% unemployed today. So we visited as so often in life, these situations perform, so people got to hear about what we were doing and like everybody else, we mainly concentrated on the poor economic countries because that's where people are prepared to leave home and go and work elsewhere. So Portugal plays a central part in the workforce. We used to get a few stray Greeks coming in, but that was about it. There was nowhere near the regulation that we've got today and so everybody was making mistakes in terms of their recruitment, including us. And so you find the odd person that had a Portuguese passport that turned out to be Brazilian, but you learn as you go along what people saw that we were doing. Rumors spread around the local area. And as a result, we were asked whether we could help other businesses do similar things to the ones we've been doing. So we actually decided that we would spin off the recruitment arm into a separate company, and that was acorn recruitment southwest limited, which must have been about the turn of the century when that was done. Okay, and when you say you kind of touched on some roles, were there any particular type of roles that you were helping with? Was it all similar sort of businesses or was it a variety? Well, we started with our own needs, which were basically low level jobs, pickers, packers, food processors, warehouseman and people like that. But for other businesses, we soon found that we were able to find things like electricians plumbers and things like that. One of the big local cheese plants asked us to help out as well, and they wanted similar type of labor to that that we've been bringing in. So it did spread across quite an industry base involved with what has become a very large company, which was in the water industry, and we started to supply them with labor and have done on and off over the years. Okay, so that's a bit more about the business. And then Pete, from like the online side of things, obviously you're involved in the development of acorn in that respect. Could you kind of shed a bit of light on that as to how and what that became? Yeah, I think it started around about roughly 2006 or seven or maybe eight. Chris, maybe not. I can't remember where me and Chris hooked up. I came in, looked at his online setup. Chris was adamant he wanted to remain prominent in the southwest, but didn't mind experimenting, moving into other areas. So it took a while, plans were made and we decided that we would keep acorn as it was, whilst expanded into three separate areas at the time, which were the UK, nationally, europe and international. And that was a development, really of skills international, whereas acorn in some ways online, technically has suffered because of the success of the business in other areas. I believe that more needs to be done from my side in terms of upgrading, putting any available time into the acorn project. Better website, more targeted, better support, bringing in, working more closely with visa sponsorship and things like this. And it's all planned, but let's say we're so busy in other areas that it's finally available time at this moment. But I recall when you first became involved, our website presence was basically a brochure online and was about as sophisticated unsophisticated as it can come. So there have been many changes over the years. What helped us though, were a couple of things we did on the operational side. They announced that there was going to be something called a gang master licensing authority, which actually went live on the 1 April 2005 and we were one of the first three people or three businesses to bring people in under those schemes. And we were, if you like, a founding member of that operation. And you can see how exploitation is a real concern globally. And we picked up the expression ethical recruiter in other business lines, but that was the first start of trying to act. You call it ethically or responsibly, you put on whatever badge you wish. Our orientation then, from 2005 was all on Eastern Europe, because the EU added eight further countries and about 80 million people, of which half were Polish. And the Polish people we brought in were an absolute revelation on both the businesses. We used them and suddenly we had people who were interested in the business and our productivity gain was about 20% without us actually having to do too much, which is just phenomenal. And then a few years later, when Romania and Bulgaria were added to the mix, we've got to know Dan and other people in Eastern Europe and we've brought in thousands over the years. And I think for our international listeners out there, I think now is a good time for us just to explain a little bit about what we mean by the southwest in England. So, for those of you who don't know, england is split into various different counties and the southwest, the counties that comprise this, according to Google, at least some may argue some things are Bristol, Cornwall, which includes the Isles of Silly, Dorset, Devon, Goscher, Somerset and Wiltshire. So those are the primary ones that make up the southwest. Now, we already kind of started on it and one of our focuses is obviously on the southwest and the struggles that they face. So, employment challenges facing these counties. So, again, for just some basic statistics, in the southwest, there are 584,000 and some change companies, of which in the UK, that makes up about 6.3%. The most dense industries are wholesale, retail trade, manufacturing, construction, and for some counties, agriculture. So those are the types and the kind of of a bit little a background about the area we're discussing. So what are the challenges that are facing these counties? So, according to Skills launchpad in 2021, most of the businesses within the southwest are microorganizations, of which one in five businesses in the southwest have a turnover of less than 50,000. Now, in terms of the positions that they are recruiting for, almost half 46% of vacancies that are advertised locally are deemed hard to fill. This is often linked to and according to this document, attributed to difficulties in finding applicants with the appropriate skills, qualifications or experience. So, obviously, you've been living in the county for a long, long time and you were an employer and are an employer within the county. What do you think are some of the challenges of or facing the southwest? Going back historically, it was very much driven by pricing and if you were manufacturing something for a supermarket, you couldn't afford a labor charge of above X, and therefore you're always looking for low cost employees willing to do pretty boring jobs. It's changed a lot over the years. There's still quite a lot of manufacturing in the Southwest, but I was interested, you said that agriculture is only key in certain counties. I would have thought that in all of the Southwest, agriculture plays a pretty strong part, as does hospitality. Now, with both of those, part of the challenge is that demands can be seasonal. And so if you only want people to pick daffodils in your fields in Cornwall for six weeks, from January until Valentine's Day, you are going to be struggling to try and find that sort of labor, because who's going to move counties, move countries for a six week engagement? Nobody in their right minds. And therefore the emphasis now is towards how can we automate things, how can we combine activities? And there are some farmer cooperatives where the people pick potatoes and then they go on to pick apples, and then in between they will be picking strawberries and things like that. But those, I'd say, would be the major challenges. I think there are other factors obviously, at play. That's just one factor, I think, depending on which county we're discussing. I think the the age of the population in certain areas is definitely something to factor in. And for Devon and Cornwall, they have typically older population, which is meaning that for certain industries and certain trades, the level of emerging talent, the skill sets that are there are just not because there isn't the people necessarily looking to move into those areas. And equally, something that you kind of touched on is the cost of living in those areas. The cost of living in those is incredibly high, but the pay rates and things don't necessarily reflect that. And also, if you compare the year 2000 with the year 2023, a lot of people just don't want to do the jobs that they were prepared to do 23 years ago. Another industry we've not touched upon is fishing. And it's very strong brand of Southwest because we've got a huge coastline. But people who are processing fish or catching fish are really struggling to find people because one of the businesses we had 25 years ago was in processing of fish when we had exactly the same problem. So you would say that in a generation you've gone full cycle, but you've still got the same problems. And again, something kind of expanding on my last point is that the actual availability of those, because there's not enough people that are unemployed, is something that within the Southwest, according to national statistics, the highest unemployment rates in the UK were in the northeastern London with 4.5%. This was for three months ending to December 2022, and the lowest being in the Southwest. So it just shows you that whilst there are all these job opportunities and people obviously in demand for workers. The actual availability of workers on a local scale is not there necessarily because there aren't enough people to fill these roles. It's always been a problem, but the nature of the problem has been changed also by politics. The influence of the establishment of the EU opens and doors, and a lot of Eastern Europeans came in to do things like food badge manufacturing or care or hospitality work. And the shutting of the doors with Brexit has put an incredible strain on the UK economy. They reckon that there was about five and a half million Eastern Europeans here at the time of Brexit and then they believe it's down to about 3 million. And we'll come back on Brexit as a thing further on in the podcast. Now, Dan, as someone who has been involved heavily with recruiting workers into the UK overall, but you've been involved in supporting us with projects in the southwest. From you and from an outsider's perspective, are there any things that you see that are unique to the Southwest or any challenges that you've seen yourself with projects? Well, the first thing is coming into my mind is what reaction Lady Candidate had when I sent her in that area. It was like place where she was dreaming of. She was in somewhere, said, if I'm not wrong, and we somewhere on the seaside and everything was with the sea view and everything was so perfect, so on. Anyway, she was very excited. So that's the first thing when you're coming about Southwest and placing in that area. Now, regarding recruiting for Southwest from Romania as Romanian, well, I can say that there were a lot of opportunities before Brexit and then by saying a lot, there were a lot for low qualified or non qualified people, most after Brexit cars were changed. So there is no more the same thing anymore. But we do have a lot of people sending there. The impact of going to the UK was actually building up a Romanian community in the UK of over, I think it was over 2 million Romanians and now it's over 1,001,000,000 or how something like this. So we do still have a pretty strong presence there. And Nizama, as someone who has recently relocated to the UK, you're not in the southwest, but have you or do you have any perceptions of what you know to be the southwest or any challenges that are facing the southwest? Yes, first of all, I will agree to cress that the number of permanent jobs in the southwest has been falling for the first time since 2020. However, the starting pay rate has increased to attract highly skilled workers. However, there's no much interest for the people because as you mentioned previously, southwest has unemployment rate with 3% comparing to the other places in the UK, which is a challenge. The new government statistics show the region's job market has continued to strengthen despite the end of for loss scheme, with the number of people and work now at 2.7 million, which is a raise of 50,000 on the same time in 2020. Also, Juan Harris, the job center customer service manager for Devon and Cornwall, said the job were being created in all sectors in the DWP, was even stepping up on its own recruitment to tackle the situation. So I was going to say everyone's wanting and people are making and increasing their efforts to try and find people, but it's the finding of the people that is proving a challenge, depending on the industry that you're recruiting for now. Pete, in terms of from your perspective, you're based up north, and I know there's this whole thing of sometimes the north south divide. But from your perspective, do you notice anything that any challenges that are unique to the Southwest, or do you think that the challenges that we're seeing here are kind of similar to the ones you see in your area? I don't see any difference in any areas, to be honest. Following the press a little bit on the agriculture, chris, were you involved in vertical farming or still involved in vertical farming within the region? I attempted to be involved in vertical farming. Let's say that was not one of my better investments. Technically, it seems a very good idea, and I'm surprised it's not been jumped all over, to be honest. So I had something different down written here in terms of the next thing I wanted to discuss. But I feel like based on kind of the conversation we've had, I think something that I want to move forward is the importing, or rather the movement of workers pre Brexit versus post Brexit. So if we discuss what it was like in a pre Brexit world, casting our minds back I can still remember the day when we found out that we were leaving the EU. I was in Vegas at a show and thinking, this will never happen. No way it's ever going to happen. And then suddenly, oh wow, we've signed it, we're leaving now. According to the CIPD labor market outlook, in a post Brexit world, more than three in five organizations are finding roles hard to fill compared to previously. Shortages of staff are now more acute, especially in types of roles where there were lower skilled, potentially EU nationals that would have been free to fill. So something you touched on, Chris, was that 90,000 EU workers have left the UK's hospitality industry in the past twelve months. I'm surprised it's not more than that. I mean, obviously yeah, I don't think it always necessarily captures every single individual that's out there because I'm sure there's some people that we don't necessarily know about. So in a pre Brexit world, I think a perception I see from a lot of employers when I speak to them is an element of taking for granted what used to be there. It was easy. There was no real formalities of any depth. You used to have to get a special card to show that you were from the EU. Their colors changed from country to country. So we had red cars, blue cards, yellow cards and all the rest of it, but it was pretty easy to do. Again, there was some formalities with the Home Office. You have to fill in the form and send it off, but again, they never chase you about any forms that they perceive to be missing. So it's very sort of laxadaisical type approach. But one thing I just like to chuck into the mix is I was out with friends Monday lunchtime and a waitress there. We were sort of saying, how are you finding it? And difficulties. And she summed it up beautifully, everybody wants a job, but nobody wants to work. And that really is the UK problem. The locals are just not really interested in basic jobs anymore. So in a pre brexit world, I think also there was and it's something that you kind of one of your opening statements was, especially in the Southwest, with the costs and that the people were wanting to spend. X amount on their labor that they were paying for. And that X amount was lower than perhaps what they would offer for a local worker. So they were relying on what they termed as, and I use it in quotation marks, cheap labor from the EU, because people were coming over to get a better life for themselves, be able to send money back. Dan, correct me if you think I'm wrong on that, but would you not say that's kind of the viewpoint that a lot of workers coming from the EU were thinking when coming to the UK? Well, actually, that's the main point of view of any worker coming not only from the East Europe, but from all over the world to a better place than where they are living to make a better living, to put it more largely, not only to make more money. I've been speaking with candidates who were having enough money to live in Romania for a lifetime, but they were willing to go to the UK just for the sake of their kids future. The wider benefits, the social benefits, like you say, the impact on one's life not necessarily on their wallet, another social benefits was about the future. You can afford to send your kids to the university and you can be sure that after graduating, your kids will have something to do with that diploma, not hanging it on a wall. That's the future of the kids, not the Social Security team that you're getting, like, I don't know, £200, £500 per month. No, that's not the future of the kids. Well, there were some bizarre things that used to happen. Our longest serving client been looking after for more than 25 years. He actually had a person from US who improved his English in the eight years he was here, from two words to three words. And all the time he was here, his kids were at home in Poland and the British government were paying him £150 child allowance, which everybody said was a load of nonsense, but that's the way the system works. And certainly Eastern Europeans were very good at understanding how to play the system. And I think at the end of the day, we all realized from our own experiences, but also from most employers, you speak to the positive impact that the workers in the EU had because the work ethic that they were coming with was something. And as much as people may have turned around and complained and said, oh, someone's coming and taking my job, you're saying that now, but then you look at the jobs that are available, no one's stepping up to take them. So really, was that argument a valid one? I don't personally agree with that. I think if someone is wanting to work and they're here for the right reasons, regardless of where they come from, they should be viewed equally. We got to some ridiculous situations, and I know Pete has a similar story to this as well, in that we were having to ship people in from 100 miles away just to get the labor that we needed. So we're based in Somerset, as I mentioned earlier, so we're bringing people buying bus over from Wales on a daily basis and from as far afield as Torquey. Just lunacy. But that was how desperate we were to get labor to fulfill the orders that we had coming through the factors. The point you raised about the Polish and the Polish people getting family allowance for their children back home is not only relevant to the overseas people, but also to British people, because those serving in the British Army overseas were getting family allowance from England and the same payment, in fact, more kindergart, which is in Germany. So I was what? We were one of the best. I think we benefited quite handsomely from the deal as well. And it all came down to the wording on a document upon it. And then all of a sudden people are getting in fact, guy across from Ebony, he'd been in Germany for about twelve years and got twelve years back pay about five or six kids, and it was like, oh my God, the checks were flying around, people buying. You going back to one point which if has Brexit produced any difference at the micro level? And I'm unsure because I understand what everyone is saying about the ease of finding workers and all this kind of stuff. But if you look at unemployment figures, pre Brexit difficulty that companies would then have as soon as the Brexit became live were going to be massive because people couldn't find the workers, they weren't going to be available or the British didn't want to do the low quality work. Then the unemployment level within the area region would go through the roof. But that's not been the case if the employment levels are similar pre Brexit, post Brexit, brexit made a difference. Huge difference, Pete. And there are two main areas. One is the simplicity that's being done away with. I said, other than getting a couple of bits of paper stamped, there was little formality about bringing workers in from the EU. Now, if you are a dairy farmer, for example, and you want to bring in labor to help on your farm, you have to have a license from the British government to allow you to bring labor in. And you also have to be prepared to pay for sponsorship to bring the labor in. So it's undoubtedly much more expensive operationally for many businesses than it was before Brexit. I think the point that the peace making is that actually when you look at and I suppose statistics paint a picture, but they don't necessarily tell a story, is that the unemployment levels don't seem to have really necessarily changed that drastically the way that maybe people work. I suppose what you would be a better indicator is maybe knowing what roles were in more demand pre Brexit versus post Brexit. Are we still seeing the same demand in those roles? Or is it the roles have changed and the types of Vacancies have changed? Because to me it seems like we get a lot more inquiries for people now who had relied on EU workers at the lower skilled roles that are seeking the assistance more so than say, I don't know, sales manager or something like that. So I don't know. It's difficult. And it's a good point you make, Pete, that actually, on a statistical level, has it made a difference? I don't know. Statistics doesn't indicate that. But I think the feeling you get when you speak to people from at least my perspective, I would say, is that it has made things more challenging and more challenging, but also people even now we are however many years past everything is the amount of people that still don't necessarily know the changes and what has impacted that. And that's both on a candidate level, but also on an employer level. And I think that's the thing is educating them going forward on what that route forward looks like. There's also a planning issue which has changed. In the old days, if you just want to workers from the EU, you could probably get it all organized in three or four weeks. Now, if you suddenly decide you want another ten people in your factory, and if you don't already have a license, well, that's going to take you a month to six weeks to get them. Then it's going to take another couple of months to get the people into the UK. So you can't manage businesses short term as much as the UK used to do. Well, I was going to say, Pete, you've heard on calls and things before where companies saying that they need someone yesterday, it's always one of our phrases that we're using, and it's a case of people saying, oh, we'd like a mechanic from Poland, for example, Romania or Bulgaria, and I'd like them to arrive yesterday. Well, that doesn't happen now. That can't happen now. I think here. I would like to add another point, Francisca, from the perspective of the candidate himself, if we are speaking about lower level of jobs, the candidate should go through the Home Office processing of the visa, iles and all these things, and you are not sure if the candidate can do it or not. Yesterday I was speaking to an Italian candidate. He was asking me about I'm living in Spain and I hold Italian passport. I don't know if I can work in the UK or not. Even the people don't know what's happening. And I think it's all relative, isn't it? There are certain people and certain industries and certain types of workers and other things like that, where they are going to be more educated about a process of things. We'll come on to the visa side of things in a minute. Pete, you were going to raise the point. Yeah, the systems have got more complicated. As Chris has said, we are as a company supporting companies that require assistance. It's taking longer, more bureaucracy for the whole thing. Employees are being squeezed, as you said, Francesca, where the employer wants the workers yesterday, they're not planning, they're sort of like, right now, we have no option, we're going to have to pay the fees, we're going to have to get a license. It's got to be happening. And the squeeze is working, because surely the unemployment level would be over 10% if it wasn't. Yeah, I think what would be an interesting statistic to know is, whilst the unemployment level is recorded as being similar, I don't know how often they're doing these. I don't know if it's done on a quarterly basis, the unemployment statistics, but how long are the people in work staying in work? Are they coming in for a week, two weeks, three weeks, a month maybe, then sacking it off and moving on or going potentially back on benefits or not necessarily staying employment? Because I do think that is something that the workers, the EU workers, had created this really positive what's the right word, positive vibe around them is that they were coming and they were grafters, sticking at the work here for the long term. There are companies we speak to where they've had the same worker working for them for like, 1015 years and they're loyal to it because they've been treated right. I don't necessarily know with the statistics now how many of those people are if the statistics are kind of masking anything, I don't know, maybe that's what I'm. Trying to say, well, I think Kovis had a huge impact because about 2 million Eastern Europeans went home, never to return. If you take that out of the equation, obviously the unemployment rate is going to look low, isn't it? I think what issues is they're probably masking in the seasonal labor market where across the UK, but in the southwest, farming, the agriculture, the hospitality, is really going to be struggling with the seasonal labor. The numbers to have the paperwork to bring the people in and then because we've heard the farmers saying they're willing to pay £20 an hour, I can't find no one locally, all that kind of stuff. So it's probably that the figures mask the problem. And the problem is there for the seasonal worker. You can't bring a seasonal worker in under the skills shortage list, you can bring them in under other visa options, but they are difficult to get people through. And the volumes are just not there because the rest of the world is competing. And this is the thing that we have to understand. It's not just little old Acorns in the southwest of England. It's also the other companies within the groups and other countries that are competing for the same labor. And it's so much easier for Romanian to go to Germany without any visa regulations, 2 hours from home than to come to the UK, which involves a flight and God knows what paperwork. We'll come back to that in a second. Just a couple of other points I wanted to make and Dan, I'd like your kind of feedback on these is one of the reasons that people, from my understanding is we're coming to the UK from Europe was because the level of unemployment in their home countries was very high. And now my understanding is that the unemployment level is a lot lower. I mean, I don't know if that's true for you and if that's a true reflection from your perspective. Well, as the first point was the better living in another country is UK first. The second point was not necessarily the unemployment rate as the job offer differences, the way employer is looking to an employee versus the way Romanian employer is looking to an employee. So the way they are treated after they sign the contract, that's another point. They were going and they are still going outside to work. Regarding the employment rate before Brexit, I cannot say that it was very, very big. It was our normal five to 6%. That's our normal 5% unemployment rate. So we've got something out of the ordinary. And in the meantime, okay, we found another way to bring in Romania. Candidates from Asia or countries similar to work for us in constructions, because constructors went to work in our constructors, went to work in Germany, went to work in the UK, and so on. And when they come back, guess what? They cannot work once you are working for £3000 salary. You cannot go back and work for 600 and do the same job. No, you're self worth and you know exactly. And I think that kind of leads on to my other point I was going to make, was that the wages that one was receiving in the kind of mid to early 2010, there was a significant difference between what people were earning over here versus what they'd earn in their home country. And the cost of living over here was not at the levels we're talking about now. For context, depending on when you're listening to this podcast, currently the UK is undergoing a cost of living crisis. So the attractiveness of what someone could make and then sent home or what they were earning and what they're able to then save is not as attractive as it once was. Something that we talk a lot about with our clients, especially with how the mindset of a European worker particularly is. But I think it's true of most workers, if they're looking to relocate, is what am I getting versus now, versus what I could be getting? And something that Dan is always saying to me is like net and gross, or neto and gross. Gross. Neto and brutal, not gross. I didn't think that sounded quite right. Netto and Bruto is what is my actual salary after everything has been deducted? What am I actually left with? Actually, this is what they are actually working for, what they are actually earning. The rest is the government earning either. It's UK government, Romanian government, German government, all of them are getting taxes from the salaries. So if it is 20%, that means 20% of the working time is dedicated to the government. Any candidate will be interested to know, what about the other 80%, how much is it? There is another change that we have seen, and this is a global situation, but if you'd like, because the UK is the first place, as the group, we saw it here, first of all, and that is the willingness of employers to help workers with accommodation. Going back 1015 years ago, it was so difficult to get any employer to offer any form of support in terms of accommodation. Now we basically say, if you're not prepared to help with accommodation, you're not going to get the workers. And so the packages that are now available for people under visa routes and things like that, as a package, is better for them than it ever was. So, talking a lot of pre Brexit and moving on to post Brexit and is that now, and we've all kind of mentioned it in one way or another, is this trend towards, if there is not the local national talent available, or perhaps those that have the right to remain is going on that international route. And now there is the option of a skilled worker visa. Now, the skilled worker visa replaced. What was the tier two visa for context. And in order to qualify for this, companies must first of all obtain a sponsorship license. Now the government dictates what jobs are eligible, and currently under the skills shortage occupation list, there's about 30 different shortage occupations. And these are things like welders graphic designers, musicians, artists, engineers, poultry, et cetera. There are different sectors. There are some that you think should be on there. Like, I'm a little bit terrified at the thought that an Htv driving instructor can come over, but we can't get an HGV driver. So I'm not quite sure how I feel about that one. Arenas yeah, there's some that are on there. And this is maybe a topic for another time question about who's making those decisions and who's actually really looking at what people in the areas need. Now, for us from a southwest area, we see a lot of demand and people going down this route, mainly in the food processing, agricultural engineering, some skilled trades. Some skilled trades, yeah, those are the kind of the main factors we see that are requiring that now in terms of with the Visa sponsorship, something we have touched on is that there are different expectations and different levels to this compared to how workers in the EU could just come over within a very short time frame. So the time frames is one thing that is a lot longer now, but it is also the onus on the employer and this level of expectation for what they should be doing, but also from a candidate side in that there are minimum requirements that they must meet. And it's all based on the 70 points of which certain points are made up by things such as the job offer, the job being on the shortage occupation list, and then things such as meeting the English language standards and other things such as that. Now, do you think, and this is a question I want to ask everyone is Nisma, I'll start with you. Do you think the fact that in a post Brexit world now that Visa sponsorship is kind of more of the only option, do you view it as a positive? Do you think that it's good that there is now more Visa sponsorship opportunities? Well, I would say no, because people already are, as you have all mentioned, that there are a lot of jobs here, but we must go through a long process from the Home Office. It could be expensive for the employer, it could be nonvetting to the candidate himself. For example, if you're hiring a mechanic from Poland, probably he would not be speaking English very well to reach the requirements of Ielts or English language. Also, if you're hiring from Bulgaria, the same. I would say that it's more complicated from both sides, either the employer or the candidate. It's more expensive for the candidate. As you were mentioning, the employer who wants to hire yesterday for Europeans, but it's impossible, cannot be happened. So both sides are challenging by this way. There's one thing that it has basically stopped, is large scale exploitation of workers through the temporary employment regulations, because you just can't do that anymore. So you have to employ the people directly. There's no such thing as us being able to bring in 50 people and then spread them out over half a dozen employers in the Southwest. Because I think, quite rightly, recruitment agencies are not permitted to hold Visa licenses. Yeah, I think it will not work for many jobs. For example, as you mentioned, Cresta, if you have a farm and you need workers, you will not give them a permanent jobs. Yes, limited, but there is the seasonal worker option. I think there's an element of potentially with certain industries evolving their working practices to meet what is currently there and what is actually available and what options there are to them. And that is part of our role in our position to help try and educate all sides involved in the process about the benefits, about the drawbacks. Because as much as there are a lot of benefits, there are the drawbacks, and we can only be here in an advisory capacity, and it's down to the employers at the end of the day as to what decisions they want to make. But there are sometimes where one's burying one's heads in the sand, trying to do the same things that you were doing five, six years ago are practical, don't work now. You can't work in that way. We touched on it earlier. It's surprising how many businesses seem to be completely unaware even now that the regulations have changed. But you had one you were talking to yesterday. Yes, and it's yes, and it is just understanding. But sometimes I think until someone has been faced with the challenge, they don't necessarily know what has happened. Pete, what's your viewpoint on it? Do you think that the changes that have come about from Brexit and other things like that? Obviously. There was Visa Sponsorship before brexit. I don't want to mislead anyone. There were tier two visas in existence for a long time, but people didn't have to rely on it, I suppose, as much as they do now. I think the employee sponsored Visa is fantastic because without it, then what closed down. There is no manpower. So, Bayer, you're not going to be able to target the unemployed or people that already go to the jobs. So close your business down. I think what needs to happen is the speed of delivery needs to be improved upon and they need to have a flexible system where they can, in regard to market data, they can quickly change to move the goalposts. Say that we for the Southwest, they can bring in 50,000 agricultural workers or mechanics, so it's something on the list, engineers, and they need $100,000 so they can quickly adjust the figures. Because it's not about it's all about the demand. There's no point, the government's no point shooting themselves in the foot to business. Taxpayers is going under because they weren't supported in terms of when they needed manpower, they couldn't get them. And I think that's very true. And I think that's where sometimes I feel and I feel empathetic towards some of the employers I speak to who are saying, look, I need this and this and this. And I'm like, okay, we can look locally, we can look nationally. But realistically, the skill you're looking for is not something that is available. Unfortunately, in some circumstances, there's not a lot more that can be done because those particular roles might not be eligible for sponsorship. And that's where sometimes I do feel there is a disconnect between what is actually needed in the real world for those businesses, as you rightly say, to survive and maybe even thrive, versus what ones there are available to make no logical sense. Sometimes I just don't quite get it. I don't know who's making those decisions. Whether they gather data from the job boards or what people are advertising or what, I'm not sure sometimes where they're gathering their information to be able to give the employers and the companies the best chance of survival and thriving to further develop the business. They call it politics. Yes, they'll be managed by Bart and Hormone Simpson because it's almost laughable that you look at the whole system and think, right, okay, there is a need to move quickly for some people. So what do you do? You put in a fast track system where they pay £5000 per month extra and everything's done and dusted within a week. It works done, everything's sorted, taken care of, bank sorted, government get paid a hell of a lot more money and then everyone else that's less of a demand on time can go through the normal system. And then there's a slightening scale of where we need more of we adjust the goalpost, we need less of we shriek the goalpost. It's not difficult for some reason, it's crazy when you've got viable businesses that need manpower absolutely desperately, and we're talking to them saying six weeks. If you go, if you sort of quickly and do this and jump through all these hoops, two months, we probably have some workers in place for you that are suitable. And it's like you can hear yourself saying it and thinking, it just sounds so crap. It doesn't Pete, because how long do these businesses know that they're going to be facing a shortage? There is that. And what have they done to prepare themselves? Now, it can happen that a company suddenly makes an acquisition or something and might need 100 extra workers to do A, B and C. Well, if they are on the skill shortage list, there is actually a fast track system that can be used. It costs £25,000 to the government to get on the fast track, but that would not be far off your sort of two, three weeks and things could be really underway, even at the other end of the scale. If you want to fast track things, you can pay an extra 500 quid. Yeah, that's for speeding up getting your license, but it doesn't necessarily speed up the whole process. There are certain elements, like a candidate can choose to go down the priority route as opposed to standard routing a decision quicker, but it's not the same as those one or two weeks of, like, bang, bang, bang. But something to consider is that, yeah, that £25,000 sounds great for certain businesses, but a lot of the businesses in the Southwest, they are micro sized companies or smaller companies. They can't be affording, things like that. And I do think that is something that is more challenging, perhaps in the Southwest, is that the businesses are not necessarily ones that have a lot of cash to be able to do it. Not that they're not good businesses, viable businesses, but they don't necessarily have the available funds to make that a priority. But equally, I think a conversation that we've had possibly on a previous podcast or off the record, I suppose, was, whilst the visa process is expensive, the return of investment on an individual is something that should be considered. There is a lot more upfront cost, but how much is that person actually generating for your business? But again, that comes down to us trying to educate and explain to the employers. One thing we don't want to leave listeners thinking is there's only low grade jobs that we're talking about because there are some well paid jobs, 50, 60, £70,000 a year, where businesses just cannot find the skills in this country and might well have struggled to find the skills in Europe, but now they can tackle the whole world under the Visa system. And Dan, you're obviously in a unique scenario where you're working with us on an international scale for workers, and obviously everyone having that equal opportunity. But from you and maybe friends, colleagues of people or other people, that you know who have considered moves to the UK. Pre Brexit. Post Brexit. Do you think people's attitudes towards coming to the UK is different now with the visa sponsorship? Do you see many people from Europe considering it? If we focus maybe just on the lower end scales and then we can discuss the higher end scales. Well, obviously, after the Brexit, the interest in any country will require requesting a visa, and mostly about visa expenses and some tests and certificates and extra documents and so on. There is a low interest into that offer and that's because the competition is offering a contract by tonight and you can start after tomorrow, because you are coming either with the plane, either with your own car, simple as that. And that doesn't really matter if it's low skilled or high skilled, the market is acting as a machine everywhere in all the sectors. Now, before Brexit, of course, UK was like us, was a long time ago when they first discovered it. And there was a lot of gold there, they think. So that was the UK for East Europe. Before Brexit, everyone was wanted to go to the UK. Doesn't matter for what, doesn't matter what they will do, but they have to go to the UK. So that for the UK employers was a good thing because it was an abundance of candidates. It really doesn't matter too much if the candidate retention was high or low, because there was an abundance, there was a lot of candidates, so it was one going, another one was coming almost immediately. So there's no point in doing something to retain the candidate, the employee actually. Now, after the Brexit happened, of course the pool was diminished a lot. There are not so many people willing to go to the UK unless they have already relatives there and they have somehow alive in the UK and they want to establish fully there. Now, that's the good part for the employer. Even if they might have a smaller pool of candidates now, those who will go, really to be hired in the UK are more likely to stay over a year in the same working place. And that's one thing because of the visa restrictions, and the second thing because as a candidate, when he is looking to make an expense and to spend like two months waiting for something to happen, for a visa to come up, then they are not willing to move so easily from one employer to another. They are more likely to stay in the same position for at least a year with job retention. Exactly. There's not so much availability, there's nothing to stop someone leaving a role. But the financial, the financial investment that people have put in to the process, they're not willing to lose that money that they've put in. They have a legal contract as well. So it's not just like being a temporary worker working in a food processing plant where all the products are going to the supermarkets, in the supermarket, can decide, oh, we're going to drop this supplier and they suddenly have to make 150 people redundant. It just doesn't happen that way. Yeah, there's nothing I mean, employers can still make people redundant when they're on a visa. It's just, I think I think the visa also offers a better level of protection for the workers and a better sense of job security, which is great. And it offers also a bit of helpful hand for us as a recruiter, as we cannot send people without the proper English language knowledge. They will simply not pass the iOS tests. And that's it. Yeah, I think it definitely helps regulate that. But also on the other side, for companies, in order to be even able to do this, there's a level of vetting that's been done by the Home Office in order for them to get their license. So they are more genuine and serious employers as opposed to the potential opportunities that might have arisen previously where people were not necessarily treated in the best way. And from a well being perspective, you see some horrible things that have happened over time. I have to throw into this the contrarian view, as the manager of all those applying to be a member on the international site, that the vast majority of new people coming in are seeking employment in the UK. The UK is still looked upon very favorably globally. A lot of this is linked to the colonial pool that the UK had 100 years ago, most of which have disappeared. But certainly this is the country of choice for many people from Asia, particularly the Indians and the Pakistanis and things like that, because they used to be part of the British Empire and we're still regarded by outsiders looking in as being fair and decent people. And we lost all countries as the odd bad apple. We probably have a lower number of bad apples than the average country in terms of how we treat people. And something actually is that as much as we say the time frame for a visa, unless someone already has a license, and there are lots of variable factors, could still be termed long in comparison to the pre freedom of movement for EU workers. It shadows in comparison to what you see in other countries. For America you're looking at potentially nine to twelve months to obtain a visa. So in the grand scheme of things, it's not very long. And I do think that is another reason why people do look to come to the UK. And I know something that we, and I don't want to go too off track, is that a lot of companies from outside of the UK often wanted people coming from the UK because of the level of education, the level of development, the level of knowledge, the level of expertise, and wanting to take those things out. So I think a lot of people see the UK as a better life, but also from a professional personal development side of things as a very desirable place. Looks good on your CV, like you raised a .1 of Chris's favorite subjects, which is HR. And with the changing of the systems, Brexit visas and everything else, and the way that business is not evolving as it probably should, now provide employment planning as a more integral part of the system, whereas certain businesses, certain sizes should be planning, contingency planning constantly, which they're not, and we know they're not. So that as Chris said before. How long have these people known that they wanted to have the workers for? Yes, and also on the smaller side, they can outsource, they can bring people in that will look at their manpower, analyze it and start putting in plans in place so that there's continuity in the workplace. Same old crap of weight. Right. We now need 500 workers. We can't find them. Better start closing the doors. And all this planning, sorry. It all starts at the boardroom fee. If the directors of Enterprise are not on top of what the Enterprise needs and don't put in place the building blocks within the organization, like perhaps telling HR that they just bought another company and they suddenly want another 200 workers because it is pitiful the way that so many business are mismanaged in the UK. I think that my advice would be, and this is just my two cent, is that if you're someone who's working in HR, I think being aware of the employer sponsored visa route is something that is of value. And if you have any sway, any way of conveying that to people is that obtaining a license does not mean that you've then suddenly got to be like, okay, we need to get people in right away. You apply for a license and then that's valid for four years. I'm not aware. And please, anyone who looks to go down this route, please do seek legal guidance that there is any punishment. If you obtain your license, then don't use it. None whatsoever, francesca but for the sake of depending on the size of your business, we're talking between 530 something pounds to one, £500 at the time of recording that at least. Having that license in place means that you do have that in your back pocket if you want to use it. It's like insurance. You don't buy insurance expecting the building to burn down, do you? Yeah. And in some ways it's kind of insurance. I never really thought of it like that. Chris. I don't know. What do you think about that, Pete? Would you say that that's someone who maybe isn't dealing with the people in HR so much? Would you agree with my advice in terms of looking that as a route to be prepared differently but similar? All in HR should stand up, leave their nice, warm offices, get out onto the shop floor, start talking to their managers, their foreman, supervisors, and get more of an angle on manpower, workloads what's needed, when it's going to be needed, what orders are coming in, seasonal changes, the marketplace availability, and it will not be driven from the nice, warm office in the puzzle palaces that we get where people are guessing. It can only be done by getting out there and finding out from the because the people on the shop floor, they don't like the HR sitting in the night, they're freezing cold outside, they're busy, they've got difficult jobs, they've got manpower problems, lots of social issues to sort out. It's up to the HR to get out there and support. I've seen that in a lot, many organizations I've worked with. We've got people going on meetings, big, powerful meetings. So in the military, on Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, they're all back. They don't even know what they're talking about. We're the ones getting shot at, we're the ones on the front line, we're the ones not getting fed, we're the ones not getting sleep. And everyone's talking like, when's the next hour and our trip home? And all this kind of rubbish. It's basic management and getting the people, as Chris said in the boardroom, getting them out, get out there and find out what's going on in this company and get me the manpower. If they plan efficiently and effectively and contact whatever agency if needed early enough, there shouldn't be a problem. No. And I think that kind of echoes on to some experiences that we've had with regards to supporting local employers. There's one employer that we've helped, Heatherly, who viewed the points based system as business changing and has really brought their business back and in fact, in many ways, I think increased it from what it once was. Brought it back from the brink. Yeah, brought it back from the brink because they experienced a lot of loss during brexit and with COVID and things. The person I deal with did exactly that. She went down into the shop floor, for lack of a better word, and got to know it, so she has a better understanding of what it's really like. And equally, on the other side, I think HR needs to play the role of educating the people on the shop floor that are managing these people about what it's like to bring in the different types of people, the different types of workers, the real diverse. Because we're not now talking about maybe two or three nationalities that have potentially dominated. We're talking about you could have one person from Egypt, one person from Pakistan, one person from Malaysia, one person from Syria or Philippines or wherever it may be an understanding. And that's where actually there's a learning to be done on both sides. But I do think HR and management have to play a large role in that retention is just as important as sources in the first place. Oh, absolutely. What's the phrase you would say to me, Chris, about keeping your back door? Don't bring people through the front door if your back door is open. Yeah, exactly. And just on some more examples with regards to supporting local employers. So our main companies that we have supporters have been in the food processing market where they had relied heavily prerexit and then the workforce dwindled and finding people. They have found that they get better skilled people now. People that are ready to do the job because they have those skills, as opposed to maybe just someone necessarily being a hard worker. It's also coming with some of the requisite skills. Agriculture has been another massive one for us within hospitality, which is a strange one because certain roles you're allowed, like chefs, but if you. Want front of house. Unless it's a senior management position, you're not allowed. So that's been an interesting market for us over the last 18 months. You're on flag front, Lord Trumpet, wherever the phrase is. Francesca but the people that retention place in suitability massive subjects in recruitment. The number of this client that you talked about, they worked closely with in the Southwest in what area is level? Yeah, it is a decent level and with everything anyone recruit would be nice to think that when we're talking volume that they are going to retain 100% of people, but the retention level has definitely been higher than it would have been. Not potentially using the visa system, but I could make that generalization. So in terms of other support that we are offering kind of local employers, I think something that I'm personally finding is educating. And I've touched on it before about if this is a route to go down, about forecasting and looking at this visa route as a way of going and trying to get them to understand that return of investment, a reason to look at this, what would be a reason? You would give someone it's cheap to actually get the license. If you do it yourself and you're a small business, it's £676 or some sort of figure around there for a little bit over £12 a week for a year. Shortly you want that just so you've got the assurance that if you need to move quickly, you haven't then got to apply for a license. So I would encourage anyone who could foresee the need for additional workers in the next two or three years. Get yourself a license lined up as soon as you can do it yourself. You don't have to use third parties if you don't want to. But yeah, what I would say on that is make sure you have done the research that you are or your business and the skills you are looking for do fall under the shortage occupation list because unfortunately not every role as we've said and we've touched on multiple times is available or sponsorable. So what do we think the future holds for the southwest of England? We've got our crystal balls. What are we looking at? What are we thinking? Increasingly it's got an aging population, so that gives you direction. So health care is going to be a huge demand in the Southwest, be that from the carer levels up through nursing and then into GPS. There was an article on local television about Los Whittier has got only one GP left and he's a guy that came here about 40 years ago and is of Polish extraction. So you can see the problems we're going to have in just that one area. The other area is going to be hospitality, which is upgrading in the southwest, much more luxurious outlets and it used to be much less emphasis on caravan parks and those sorts of facilities. In terms of what I would like to see, or what I hope to see, is that it's something that Pete has kind of said, is that for those businesses whereby there is no alternative, they've exhausted every opportunity, is that there is more support available. Not necessarily education, but I do think education is important and we can educate employees that we speak with, but a level of support from the government who will potentially promise certain things or they thought certain things would happen and materialized and that there is more support available for those companies. The whole point of Brexit was to keep out of the UK. Low grade people didn't speak English. Okay? That was the whole point of Brexit. So they're not going to change in that way. So I don't think you'll see that sort of assistance coming forward. And frankly, if someone advertises work and again, they can do it on a government website for very little money, or they can use a recruiter like us and you put out an advert and if there is no local demand, there is no local demand. So if nobody wants to work for that job at that rate of pay, and they're not prepared to double the rate of pay, and in certain circumstances even doubling the rate of pay will get people, then they've got other things they have to pursue. Is there any opportunity towards automation of their systems and activity? It's a huge area for the debate and not a situation we can answer in a few sentences on a podcast like this. And something you've just kind of said is about automation, apprenticeships and trying to get the young into those areas. But the problem is that the Southwest has in certain areas the cost and the availability for people to be able to do these certain things. Apprenticeships are not always necessarily very well paid and other things such as that actually the cost for people to do it is not worth it. It's good for employers and obviously hoping to develop skills, but there is a level of people learning these skills in these areas and then wanting to move to go be in the big cities and not necessarily the other way around, which is happening globally. You take Australia, which I realize we're talking about the southwest of England, but Australia, everybody wants to live in one of the six big cities. Nobody wants to live out in the countryside, definitely. Pete, what about from your perspective? Do you see any niche things for the Southwest or are they kind of similar things that you would hope to see across the whole of the United Kingdom or England rather? Well, the government are looking at the Southwest in particular with the leveling up scheme that's been running for a while now and onward. Published research paper in 21 which talked about unemployment rates have fallen much lower than other regions. Much of the work in the Southwest of England is part time. This is paired with the growing skills shortage, especially amongst young people, and connectivity, transport, digital infrastructure. Poor onward went on to say that the Southwest is a divided region, with Cornwall and Devon performing consistently worse treats than the better off areas towards Wiltshire and Gloucester. It's argued that addressing these issues will be critical to the leveling up. So the leveling up, in a few years time, when we run this podcast again, all the leveling up will have happened and everything in the Southwest will be on an even playing field. It's so true what you say, that in terms of it's almost like you've got two separate countries in some way that divide across the counties, because the transport thing is something that is so very true. These major cities, and I imagine for you, I know you're slightly rural within your area, but for the leads, as a general example, the level of connectivity that you have through trains, buses and stuff is, I don't know how many times better, a lot better than what the access points are for things around here. I mean, I know for myself, where I live that you could be waiting for a bus for quite some time and it will never come. And those opportunities then, those lack of connections then, doesn't help people in able to access certain jobs, the remote locations of certain types of work, the sites, because a lot of people have chosen to take up a farm is not going to be in the middle of a city. A farm is going to be out in the middle of nowhere. Sorry, say that again, please, Pete. The digital infrastructure issue is massive in business as well, so it's obviously a poor region of connectivity. In the UK, there's a local situation around here. Most of the factory shifts start at seven in the morning, but the first bus runs at 08:00. Useful, isn't it? The government plans are quite interesting for the region in terms of leveling up, which is to improve living standards, growing the private sector, increased and spreading opportunity, improving health, education and policing, strengthening community and local leadership, restoring pride in place and improving quality of life in ways that are not just about the economy. One thing being selfish, of course, is the use of technology within recruitment has transformed the business in the last ten years. On the back of my house, I've still got a satellite dish that we had to have installed in order to talk to Saudi Arabia, without realizing that, of course, it only worked 12 hours of the day because it was going around the world. And our It, our internet connection was about 1.5. It's no 200. So things do change. Yeah, it's evolving with the times. And I do think there is again, I think it comes down to the industries and stuff and I think there is a learning and trying to grow with the times and getting to know better what processes are involved in the modern time as opposed to, as I said, what was done 510 years ago. Because we have evolved a lot from those times. And the people that are in these businesses are not necessarily younger generations. It's a lot of older people at the helms of businesses that maybe are not akin to what is going on so much or are not as involved in the day to day things, so don't necessarily know what is going on. Dan, from your perspective, I know you say, I'm thinking about that lady you spoke about earlier, about what she envisioned for the Southwest. So I'm trying to think, what would you like to see or what would you hope to see for the Southwest? Well, what I would hope to see for the Southwest, I would hope to see more involvement, more involvement in recruiting from outside of the UK to get more courage to tackle the international market as long as the East European market when they need a candidate. And what I would like to see also is that actually, the recruitment is long time planning before, because it's not no more, as all said, it's no more happening overnight. So if you don't plan now for after three, four months, you won't do it. Simple and nisma. From your perspective, is there anything that you think you'd like to see, either from your mind as a job seeker or whether you're thinking from a recruitment or from an employer perspective, are there any changes or things that you'd like to see happening in the Southwest? Actually, I would like to see that people get used about it and stop keeping suddenly or surprising about what's happening or something. I wish that all employers could accept the truth that the UK is no longer in the EU and people should come through the Home Office requirements. And the same for the candidates as well, because they are still for their Pin candidates, they don't like to go through a process which takes around two or three months. I wish that all people can accept this truth to start having progress. So you're talking more about you want people to be more educated, so in terms of being more aware of the process, and that's where we come in. Any employer that we're talking to, if there is an option about, we're more than happy and unhand to kind of help advise. But that is it, we're here to advise. We don't make the decisions for our employers. Has anyone got anything else to add? Anything they'd like to leave our audience thinking about? Thank you. Well, I suppose the closing thing is, if you're interested in jobs in the southwest of England, then contact any corner, correct? Yeah. This is the best part, honestly, if you're interested in candidates, because that's acre Southwest. On a serious note, for me, all recruitment hangs around suitability. By using acorn recruitment. Southwest we lean heavily on suitability, which means, in the long term, the employers stay longer in post. The employees, you mean? Sorry, pardon? The employees stay longer in post. Employees sorry. Yes. Stay longer in post. Therefore, the cost saving on recruitment is vast. And in fact, that's now kind of just triggered a thought in my head that it kind of echoes what you're saying. And it's their open mindedness and perception that's something that and it kind of also ties into unismar about education is that people being more open minded to step away from what they did do to things that are now the reality and not expecting X when the only option is Y. But Y could come in various different types, but it's the only route that is available. And I think that's something that I would like to see as being just more open minded to the route. But that goes for anyone across the UK, anyone internationally, any business is going on, as you say, Pete, the suitability, if someone can do the job, and they're capable of doing the job if the means for the employer. So if there's Visa sponsorship available, why shouldn't someone be given that chance? It's definitely what Nisma says. It's education, educating everybody, and that's the job of you guys. When you're in contact with the employees, that's the job seekers. There's probably a bit of delusion out there, or lack of education, as Chris said. Rather start the podcast. People don't employees don't even know about the new system, the new Visa, which is crazy, really. Yeah. Especially when we're so many years in now. Right, well, I think I am going to wrap this episode up here, so, from Chris, goodbye from Nisma, bye bye from Dan, goodbye. And don't forget to subscribe. Thank you, Dan. From you, Pete. Don't forget to call Chris. You're going to ruin the day. You said that for me. Thank you for listening. And if you're a job seeker, please do take a look at all of our websites. Yeah, register on our website, please. If you're an employer that's in need and you want to have a discussion with us, please do contact us. And as Dan said, subscribe. Like this video video share it, follow. You can find us on various different platforms, but for myself, Francesca, that's goodbye and we'll see you on the next episode.