UK Employer Sponsored Visas, Skills Provision – Ep 2


Podcast. Today's episode will be focused on employer sponsored visas in the UK and UK sponsored visas in general. So today on the podcast, you have myself, Francesca, we also have Pete Hi, and we also have Chris joining us on the podcast today. Hello, everyone. Okay, so first of all, a little bit about UK visas in general. So, in the UK, the UK visa system is managed and operated by the UKVI. They are in charge of managing the applications from all foreign nationals that are seeking to visit or work in the UK. They are also responsible and the area that is responsible for the applications from businesses and the educational institutions, in some cases, who wish to become sponsors. So they are then eligible for sponsoring workers. Now, you can sponsor a worker if the job they do has a suitable rate of pay, skill level and meets the requirements for a visa. In order for a business to do this, there are two types of sponsorship licenses available. One is for a worker license and the other is a temporary worker license. Now, in the last few years, there have been changes to this system, with one of the most notable changes going from what used to be known as the tier two visa to the skilled worker visa. This now adopts a similar approach to that in Australia, where they've got minimum threshold to meet for points. And this change has definitely become one that we're seeing more and more commonly used. Now, why are we talking about visas now? Obviously something that has changed massively for workers, employers, businesses, everyone in the UK. Was the effect of Brexit now with the freedom of movement. Previously, UK employers had the luxury of hiring workers from the European Union and relying on that freedom of movement. So there were no special parameters or requirements needed for us. Prior to brexit. We did a lot of work in placing EU workers into UK, but also a number of UK workers wanting to leave and work into the European Union. Now, even to this day, we still receive inquiries and companies looking for those EU applicants to come and join. And it's surprising to us, maybe because we're dealing on a daily basis, how many businesses are unaware of the changes that have happened. So what has the impact been on UK employers? So Chris, what are you seeing or what have your experiences been when you've been engaging with employers in a post Brexit environment? I think the first thing to say is the percentage of people that have embraced the visa route is surprisingly low. It's estimated that there's only 3.5% of eligible companies that have acquired a license. So that's the first thing is the number of uptake has been slow. I think you also see that people will look to recruit wherever possible locally, and it's only when that pool of labor dwindles to next to nothing that they'll look at new solutions so we're still, I would say, one out of every two calls we receive. It's probably from people that are unaware of the skilled visa route. Okay. And Pete, have you had any experience yourself, whether in your local area or anything in terms of the impact that Brexit has had? Hi. As you're both aware, I work mainly in the marketing side as opposed to the hands on work within the visa area. The part that I'm a question that I don't really have any point, I do have a question I like to put to the pair of you, is the part that I don't grasp in all this is how can the government set parameters for a visa when there's no metrics? So post brexit, surely we would have been better off going in with some controlling measures but not putting out restrictive numbers, which is what happened. And the time delays which has led to massive problems of crops which are cover later crops being destroyed, which is having a negative effect on inflation, such as that is, do we shoot ourselves in the foot by having restrictive parameters? We will only supply this number of visas in these areas and many employers are short of manpower. There's obviously an issue. And added to that, as Chris has made the point, where was the advertising post Brexit, if you need workers, you're not going to be able to get them from Europe, you need to go down these roads. It was like a news blackout. There was the whole thing which has now caused a lot of problems. The information is not out there. We're having to educate people. There's a restriction on numbers and it's almost like the UK government got off on the wrong football. Along the lines of guessing how things would pan out and appear to have made a bit of a hash of it. What are your thoughts on this? Well, perhaps I could come back on that. We need to split the discussion on temporary worker visas where there were capped numbers in terms of how many could actually come in and initially it was a very low number, but has been increased year on year as the government has been heavily lobbied by industry. But there are still huge swathes where people can't get any form of temporary visa through. In terms of the skilled visa route, there are no limits on the numbers providing the skills that are being sponsored fall within the skills shortage list. And that is the limiting factor. Yeah. And I think that's an important thing to note is that I think from my experience with the type of employees that we have been engaging with, a lot of the people that were used to utilizing workers from the EU were often in those seasonal roles. So in a hospitality is one example where people could come when it was peak season, go home, return, repeat, and that seasonal worker or temporary worker visa does not cover that option. The seasonal worker falls under temporary worker and that is only applicable to the poultry and the agricultural sector. And as Chris rightly said, through lobbying and various things, the numbers have gradually increased. So in March 2019, the original quota was about 2500 and it's increased year on year. And then in 2022, it was about 38,000 visas available. Now, with those, as you've kind of said, Pete, there are those restrictions. And beyond the restrictions just of the industries, there's only certain companies that are able to help with this. They've empowered the government, have empowered certain recruitment agencies or businesses to help supply with the seasonal workers. And the real limiting factor is obviously the length. They're only six months at a time, so it's not an ideal situation and people's ability to get them and in order to be able to find the workers, it's a challenge. It really is a challenge. And then, as Chris also rightly said, you have on the skilled worker visa, it's a very different set of challenges whereby it isn't the numbers, it is the industries, or rather the job roles that are actually sponsorable. There are some that are on the list that you look at, or I personally may look at and go, that's interesting, I'm surprised that's on there. And then there are some you look at and go, how is this skill not on there? We've got employers screaming out to us, we need this, we need that, we cannot find these people. And so I do wonder sometimes how they have come to these decisions about what roles are sponsored, where do they get the market information in order to obtain this? Well, I don't think they actually do get the market information, which is what Pete was alluding to. I think it is a bit by guessing by God that the government set up various schemes and they're only finding out the hard way what the impact is. And I believe Pete is going to comment on agricultural waste that's occurring. But this is a problem not just in the UK, it's a global issue that we're struggling with and the freedom of movement that the EU gave cannot be placed by a bureaucratic visa system. I think you're exactly right, Chris. It's almost like you get backed into a hole where the answers or the solutions start to become limited completely. Changing the visa system, going away from skilled, unskilled supporting poultry and agriculture and the temporary system to something maybe a bit more widespread, where we're just getting the workers in. I can see where the government came from initially. They don't know their own people. I guess that's the problem. I listened to a podcast four or five months ago whilst in the car and had a UK farmer and they're talking about how, with incentives, they were paying upwards of 20 pound an hour and couldn't get any UK workers involved. Now, I believe you could say it's a 40 pound an hour and these people are still not going to be involved. Money is not the motivator. Pay them more money, they will come. It isn't happening. It hasn't happened and it's not going to work. And this is why the crops have been destroyed. This is why there's a lot of problems in this area of employment. What it looks like that the leverage of the pressure was put on the unemployed, the long term unemployed, to get them out to work, to reduce the burden on the country in terms of benefits, to offer them a good and fair wage and then not been attracted. This this farmer I was listening to was doing is not about the extremes they'd gone to to try and lure local people to work. It didn't happen. They destroyed £3 million worth of crops. Just couldn't get the workers. And he couldn't get the workers from the visa scheme in time. Yeah, there are many stories like that, Pete. Agriculture is obviously one and we've had some success in supporting people in that area, but that's always been through the skilled visa route, which gives a permanent solution or a long term solution, as opposed to the temporary worker route, which, as the name suggests, seasonal is what it is. And really how the government is going to move forward on that is very difficult to predict. They really don't want a mass influx of people from international markets. They are naive in many ways, thinking that local labor will do it. Now, there's a strawberry grower that had a very similar story to the one that you told, and he started something like 100 British workers and by the end of week one, there was six left. By the end of the month, there was two left, because Brits just don't want to do that sort of work. And there are many other sectors where Brits don't want to do it, but people are really struggling because those sectors are not eligible for either seasonal temporary visas or the skilled visa route. A good example would be the people that clean your bins out every week or two. A very high percentage of those were Eastern Europeans, many of whom have gone home, and people are really struggling to find anybody to do that sort of work. And those employers really don't even have the option to look outside of the UK, whereas those in, say, engineering as an example, do, because all aspects of engineering are covered by the school worker route. You're the most experienced out of all of this, Chris. Where do you think the solution eventually coming from? Because at this moment in time, I can't see one. I just see too many problems to even move anything forward. Where do you see us move? It's going to move forward. Inflation, if nothing else, will put enough pressure on policymakers, the government, to make changes, because if you keep destroying crops, it's going to put too much pressure on inflationary, pressure on and force change. I would say that using the agricultural analogy, it's grow your own is the answer to a lot of the skills shortages. But that starts with education and is probably a ten to 15 year solution to bring people up. You're of a similar sort of generation to me, Pete, where we used to have technical colleges and grammar schools and things like that and people were screamed very early on whether they were academic or hands on type people and that doesn't tend to happen these days. So that for skills that I happen to know you learnt in the military, which is to do with mechanics, people are having to look internationally for those skills. And one of the next skill shortages that is going to be major in this country is going to be people who can service electric vehicles because it's a skill that wasn't necessary five years ago. But now as we move forward the climate change and the move to electric vehicles, they estimate there will be a 30,000 shortfall of EV mechanics. Would it not be possible for the UK to retain independence? We got post Brexit but still utilize European manpower free to move, but that destroys the whole purpose of Brexit. Brexit was to enable the UK government to get control on immigration by default. They are weakening their position earlier Francesca quoted some numbers earlier as to the number of people that are coming in on visas. Even a seasonal one has gone from two and a half thousand to 38,000, which as a percentage is a mega increase as the government has been hand has been forced by the realities of the plight that farmers find themselves in. The fact that it needs probably to be somewhere between 70,100 thousand is another matter, which is for the politicians to answer that question rather than me. I think it's important to note obviously we've now talked a fair amount about Brexit and possibly more leaning about the temporary visa option and the fact that we no longer have this freedom of movement option and the availability for people just to come and go as they please. And Chris, you kind of alluded to it that I think one of the reasons for seeking independence and Brexit as a whole was to be able to control the immigration side and have a better understanding of who was coming and going, who is coming and going so that they are aware of the workforce that is in the country. Now, the other route that we have touched on is that skilled worker visa. And I think it's important to note that whilst there have been a lot of challenges for businesses, there are some positives and there are benefits of utilizing these visa systems that perhaps those who are not aware of it are not aware of those benefits. So the skilled worker visa is the main route that has now replaced what was commonly known as the Tier Two visa. Now, we've all kind of mentioned about the fact that the seasonal worker visa has a cap on the amount of visas available for this route. There is no cap on the amount, there is just the occupation list of eligible codes that can be used. So jobs that are sponsored, for example, could be a mechanical design engineer, chefs, fish processing, animal technicians as examples. But there's a lot of skills that are not on there. The most common one that we get approached about is HTV drivers, which they're not on there, but surprisingly, HTV driving instructors are. So I'm not quite sure the government's thought pattern on that one when it comes to being allowed to come and educate people how to drive when they can't actually have any drivers come in. So what is our advice to employers now? What we do with all of our employees that come to us and say, look, we're desperate for manpower, we believe very much in going from a local national to then an international viewpoint. So in our initial discussions, when we bring up the subject of visas, it's important from our professional knowledge to impart to the business whether they can even go down this route. So the first part, of course, to check is their job, is their industry eligible? It's also important to note whether their current offer that's the salary, the hours, et cetera, meets minimum requirements. Something that has been a real change for many employers who have previously relied on the European workforce is that for them, the approach was, we can probably get away with paying a little bit less than we did previously with the UK visas. In the skilled work route, there is minimum requirements for each industry and a general threshold that must be met for working hours and an hourly rate. And this is determined and reviewed by the Home Office. So do you think people will look at this route as a way of still do you think people or do you think employers consider the visa option to be a costly exercise? In your experience, Chris, what are you finding when you bring up the subject of visas? That initial conversation, what do people say to you? Well, you've anticipated the response by your intonation that everybody thinks it's an unnecessary expense that they shouldn't have to bear. Few of them actually think the whole process through in the initial conversation. And that's part of the education that we have to bring to the table to explain to them, even if the summary rate is maybe 10% higher than they had been paying for EU workers, that if you amortize those costs over a couple of years of a visa, it probably works out to be less than a pound an hour. Now, if businesses are really running that lean, that a pound an hour is going to make the difference between them surviving or going bust, then they probably don't want to go this route anyway. Now, we have no real problem in convincing people that they need to pay a competitive rate. But the point that we have to make very early on is the competitive rate has to work against a global market, not just a UK market. Because if people want chefs, for example, the going rate is x in whatever country it is and if the UK is x -5% they're not going to get the people in fact, it probably needs to be x plus 5% to get any interest. But we get no real problem with interested parties in bringing home to them. The reality is of putting a package together, and it isn't cheap, it isn't easy, it isn't quick. And if I was an employer, my thoughts would be, well, do I really want to be paying 2000 £3000 additional costs to get a worker into the UK? The answer is, if your business is dependent upon having a workforce that can execute against your sales requirement, then you haven't got much choice. You have to have the workers there to be able to do the work and the message is slowly being taken on board with those that we are engaging with. However, back to an earlier comment only about three and a half percent of British companies have so far taken this up, so it shows you how much further we need to go to reach out to the 96.5%, many of whom will be unaware of these options. There's a couple of other points that whilst there's an expense and a cost that every businessman would like to avoid, there are some benefits of going the skilled worker route. The government insists that people have to speak English at a certain level. It's not a particularly high level without sort of going into techno speak, it's like an intermediate level of English. Now, in general that is probably a much higher level of English than an Eastern European would have had three years ago pre Brexit so communication is a lot easier. The second big benefit that I see is that Eastern Europeans used to disappear at the drop of a hat and go back to their home country. Whereas for international workers who are here on a contract, and the contract is actually directly with the employer rather than through an agency, there's much greater loyalty being shown in our experience. So you get the continuity of the workforce, whereas there is a very high churn rate with the Eastern European workers. Yeah. And I think it's important to note that that's an overall picture and that every situation is different. But obviously with the freedom of movement anyone can choose to go anywhere and there was nothing, as we say, tying them to a particular location. I think also the benefit of opening up the international or to the international workforce is obviously there's a benefit from the job seeker side. The fact that now a worker from Estonia is viewed the same as a worker from the Philippines, they are given these equal opportunities to come to the UK. And I think that's something that I personally have found makes me happy doing my job, being able to see that I can offer those same opportunities to people who have got fantastic skill sets, but previously were overlooked because employers didn't want to invest in in the visa route and didn't have to go down those routes. I think also opening up to that international workforce, you're bringing in completely different ways of working a diverse approach and opening up to new ideas. What are you seeing in Europe geographically? You're in a very different location to us, and I believe from our previous conversations, you've got a very different kind of makeup of people in your local area. Have you seen any or spoken to any employers that have gone down this route? Most of struggling for workers paying their existing workforce more money, more incentives, getting more out of them while struggling to employ the new on the marketing side that I work on with skills strongly starting to think that Africa will be the new Eastern European as it was, and the quality of workers in Africa as we see the hordes registering on our website on a daily basis. Sure they're not to be underestimated. They are well qualified, they are a fantastic asset to the international employment market, and in time, they will be the answer to most employers problems wherever located. Pete, could I just enter the conversation here is everyone seems to associate the skilled worker route as though it's always low paid jobs. But that is a myth. We've got jobs well in excess of 50,000 a year, some jobs up in the 60 to 70,000 pound a year bracket where British companies are seeking the skills that they can no longer find locally. And the benefit to them is that the skilled worker route opens up the whole of the world. And Estonia and Philippines was the comparison that Francesca made, but literally there was nothing to stop anybody from being recruited from anywhere in the world into the UK, providing they have the skills and language abilities as well. Now, at a professional level, like engineering or It, the higher realms of health care, they will have been educated in English in many instances, and therefore the English aspect is not a barrier for any employers listening to this podcast. You need to think as widely as you possibly can as to the business challenges that you are facing and whether this skilled worker visa route makes any sense to fill those tricky positions that you've been struggling with for a number of years. Or if you're making an acquisition or something like that and you need a raft of people to join you. On the manufacturing side, as an example, if the jobs are qualifying, it can be a very good route for you to go. It's a very good point, Chris. And what I was alluding to earlier, where if you go onto our website and do a search under, say, for example, engineering it, the amount of available people we have registering from the African continent is high. Now, most workers in Europe that are skilled are in employment. They most won't live for moving, no matter what the offer is. So it's not just the package, the skills needed, the people sought, it's availability, where are they? And that's what I'm seeing. Going back to early question, Francesca, what am I seeing locally? I'm not seeing I'm seeing struggle internationally, I'm seeing high availability in the African continent and at a level that is very high, which can be seen by going on the Skills provision website and doing the necessary searches through the manpower that we have available. It is a surprise. It was shocking to on a final point, skills Provision need to we all need to internally realize our place there is hesitancy regarding costs and that's probably going to be there for that's not going to go away. Our place in this is to provide supply and provide suitable labor that will spend longer in their placed positions than shorter. Because only by reducing the churn rate and placing people that are absolutely suitable into a position are we effective as international recruiters, because otherwise people are just going to keep paying. And pain and pain. It's the suitability of the worker. That's where we're called on to and we do I mean, we've placed hundreds of people into the fisheries sector and when I spoke to you, Francesca, about the churn, it is minute compared to the average. We're placing people that are suitable who want to be there. Exactly. And I think it's important to note that, like, with any situation isn't there, that you can find the right people, but it's also important, and this is potentially something that I said was a positive in terms of opening up that diverse workforce, but it can be a challenge. And we've seen some employers tackle this in not such good ways and have learned through time and others that have really gone head on with making that conscious decision to embrace, make people feel welcome, adapt approaches open up discussions to get these workers better placed not only just in the work environment, but also in the UK as a whole. Because the drive and the attraction of the UK, when I'm speaking to workers from India, Africa, wherever it may be, they all say the same thing as like, my dream has been to come to the UK. The UK life is something that I want. I want a better life for myself, for my family, for education. So there is that attraction there just moving on into another positive. Is that something you kind of touched on as you were talking about? The longevity is that with the skilled worker visa, there is the option to sponsor a worker for up to five years in one go and then they can apply for indefinite leave to remain and become a permanent resident. So there is that plan with that worker that they can become a lifelong and a permanent employee beyond the visa route. But it's important for employers to recognize, as with any other worker that comes and joins them, you've got to make them feel valued and part of the organization and part of the team in order for them to want to stay and invest their time. Because it's also not only employers that have to pay certain aspects, but there are financial costs to job seekers and it's important for employers to recognize this, that they are also buying into the process. Yes, there are costs for an employer, but from a job seeker's point of view, they are also investing to pay to prove their English language via testing, pay to have certain other tests, pay to get qualifications attested, pay for the visa cost. So for them, they are buying into the process themselves. Did you have any other comments you wanted to add, Chris? I think that's a very important point and it's a fairly easy sale to any candidate. The opportunity to come into the UK. For the reasons that you mentioned this. It's very often been a lifelong dream to find a job in the UK. And it's life changing for many of the people, and many of them plan a route to come themselves, very often on their own, and then six to twelve months later, they'll look to bring their families across. And once someone does that, I think you're pretty confident that they're going to be here for the long term. And that is a key point, is the reduction in the churn rate, as Pete calls it, in that I think our turnover on the skilled worker route is probably 1% to percent. Two, would you say? Francesca? Yeah, I think that's probably a fair whereas generally when we were bringing in Eastern Europeans, it was probably 25, 30%. I think also when it came to pre Brexit, is that they knew workers from Eastern Europe. Eastern Europe, sorry, were viewed as being, and are viewed as being a very good, solid workforce. So they knew their value, and rightly so, because they've earned that reputation. So people will be willing to pay maybe just a little bit more than their competitor down the road so that they would look to entice those workers and there's nothing stopping them from going from for another position to another. If anyone in those sort of positions, when a few pounds here and there can make a lot of difference, you're going to go for those higher offers. And that's why I kind of talk about the experience and everything around the job, not just the job itself, making them feel welcome in the organization. Now, something else that we touched on at the beginning was the time frames involved. Now, I think all three of us on this conversation, we generally have this feeling that whenever an employer contacts us, they wanted workers. Yesterday, two weeks ago, three weeks ago, they wanted them. With these routes that we're talking about, we know that this is not how it works. These solutions are not quick solutions, either with the temporary or with the skilled worker, with the seasonal worker. It's a shorter process, but it still requires that forward planning for a skilled worker visa, there's a lot of moving parts to this. So I could be talking to employers out there that perhaps already have their sponsorship license. So that means you're one step ahead of another business. But there's many businesses out there that don't have their sponsorship license. And this is one step from a process of a client coming to us and saying, look, I want workers, I want to go down the visa route. Our kind of best estimation from start to finish is between one to three months. It very much depends and some of those things are very much out of our control. Candidates control. There's a lot of time and processes that are governed by the government, the Home Office, the UK VI, and the processes involved. And also the unexpected. Such as COVID. Yes, and the unexpected, such as COVID. So our advice to employers is that if you are looking to go down this route, is you need to be ready. And by being ready, I don't necessarily mean just knowing what you want, it's buying into the process of, okay, I need to have these documents, I need to have these things ready, I need to be ready to do this, I need to have my offer letter ready. I need to be thinking about all of the other things around a candidate. Now, the support we offer. So what has our guidance been to employers? So industries we've touched on some that we've helped with, but agriculture, food processing, manufacturing, construction, engineering, hospitality, the energy services, those are all industries that we've got firsthand experience with hiring and sourcing for the employer sponsored visas. Now, how do we help? So one of the things that we think sets us apart is we have got the international reach. Since skills is an inception, we have been focused on the international market. We believe in recruiting without barriers and finding the right person for the right position. Now with these visas, this has made this even easier for us to help employers. Connecting those international workers with UK businesses. Another benefit that we have, and we think that really kind of sets us apart, is we have got a really strong working partnership with an immigration firm. Now, by working hand in glove with each other, we have worked on multiple different projects and it helps businesses for rest assured that not only on the manpower side are they covered, but also on a compliance and legal side, they are also covered. And this is something that is very important to note that with the Visa system, something that I think in my eyes has been a benefit, but I can imagine sitting on the other side might feel like a negative, is that as part of an employer responsibility, there is a certain level of expectation of management of what they call the sponsorship system. So maintaining and knowing where your workers are updating regularly and things such as that, I think this is actually a benefit because now people are more aware of their workforce and who they have working for them. Whereas previously, I think sometimes there was a tendency to perhaps not necessarily be aware of who was coming and going or maybe not investing as much in their workforce. Actually, I think that the key point here is the Eastern European people, a high percentage of those were employed by agencies that then subcontracted them to the end employer, but they were never employed by the employer, they were just there of units of labor. And the integration that we've been talking about rarely happened. Whereas the thinking behind the skilled worker route is completely different in that they will be the client's employee from day one and therefore the control lies with the employer. I believe you were saying that you have a colleague or a previous friend who they were utilizing a lot of agency workers. Pre brexit? Yes. And how have they found the change since then? Have they looked to go down this route? My friend has been strange, to be honest, retired at the start of this year. The manpower, managerial issues that the company had, quite a Plc, large food processing company in the UK, was struggling certainly on the night shift and gave an offer to go back, a very lucrative one. And because my friend's pension had been hammered a little bit by recent happenings in the stock market, has gone back and I think he's going to finish again. So he's going to retire again at the end of this year. He's gone back for six months to put better steps in place, better use of manpower, stronger management, how has he seen it? And nightmare. And I would imagine his problems were, as Chris also being a former factory owner, would allude to that. Although probably employed, his manpower is that there was no control, as Chris rightly said, that everything was agency, just slave labor type, like the old slavery days where it was just people coming in 3400 a shift. Lucky if five people spoke English. Whether they'd been there previous in that plant was irrelevant. It was just bums on seats. And you try managing in that scenario, situation, environment, very difficult, very stressful for the supervisors, the managers, a lot of stress related illnesses that followed. People throwing the towel in. Couldn't handle it, couldn't handle the heat, the pressure. And then the change came where they had the foresight to see where the problems are going to come and then did exactly as Chris has said, where they started employing the workforce directly, knowing that there would be a transition period of learning, training, development. The old word that started 30 years ago that's now come back investing in people, and they now have never been better. So it was two steps back and since then, with Brian being back in there, now all the numbers are starting to go up. The whole place is more efficient and this efficiency is what's needed. It's not just about manpower. It's almost like everyone's got to play their part. So we've got to find the people, they've got to be highly suitable. And as Chris says, our numbers. One, 2%, churn. Fantastic. The employer have got to lose the arrogance and they've got to treat in the manpower correctly, as they would like to be treated to themselves. And then the workers, they've got to perform day in, day out. They've got to show loyalty. And this chopping and changing jobs, this epidemic that was out there or just going out, I know people that are on the 30th job. Be loyal, work hard, be rewarded. So it's almost like we've all got to play our part and then we will start to see. So you think about it, it's not just manpower, it's performance thereafter. How people we just need manpower. The farmers just need manpower, the engineers just need manpower. It's not really that's part of it. That's the start of it. It's them what? So everyone's got to be ready. And that's where we're doing really well, because we try difficult, challenging certain senses at times. We try to educate and we try to become the partner of the employer long term, that we will work in your best interests. And the feedback we're getting, the more vanpower that we've been asked to requested to supply, it's working for us. But we do invest. We're not just playing the numbers game. We are very busy. And you're very big on this, Francesca, in terms of letting the employers know what they're paying all this. Absolutely, it's working well. Absolutely. I think it's important for them to note that, as you say, as a recruiter, and I'm sure there's many recruiters that can attest to, we are given a remit, we work to fill that remit, but we are not there with the worker every day, day in, day out. So that buying in, as we all kind of touched on now, is super important that they understand, the employers understand, but the job seekers also understand the expectations involved in order for this whole process to be worthwhile, because there's not only the financial cost, but the time and everything that has been involved. Everyone wants to see a positive outcome from this. I just like to touch on a story from Yesteryear and it's not in this country. So I can't offend any British employers who might be listening. This was in Australia and we were doing some major recruitment for someone in the oil and gas industry and it was going very well in terms of we were finding the right people, they were taking them in, but their net numbers never seemed to increase. And my next statement is blindingly obvious. What retention policy were they running with? And the answer is they weren't. They were not looking after their existing workforce. And that's one of the things that we are always encouraging employers that we talk with is make sure you're looking after what you've got already, because if you don't, you will only make the problem more difficult for yourself, because those that are with you will be providing the training for those that are joining you. And there's no better motivation than a genuine welcome from the shop floor. That's where my friend has been busy working for the last six months to strengthen the management, but have a more empathetic viewpoint where without the workers, there's no business. Exactly. And I think that's something that is very easy to forget for those who are making the decision at the top that typically they've got their own largescale problems that obviously those on the shop floor don't necessarily know about. But the only reason that they can maybe solve those problems are with those workers that are on the shop floor. Now, Pete, forgive me, I cannot remember which country it is that you said, I think, is it Japan or Korea? About the inverted triangle approach to the workforce, china. And I think that is something that is worthwhile looking at from a British or 2ft anywhere else in the world where you are hiring or you have a large shop floor presence that they are viewed as the most or one of the most important assets within the business. I don't think it ever changed. I think that maybe 100 years, 200 years maybe. The British West Western policy for work employment is the traditional triangle broken down into sectors. So you've got various lines across the triangle and at the top you've got the CEO. Below that, you've got his hangers on, CEO co and such like, all the way down the levels. Managers, shift managers, supervisors to the bottom of the ladder, the workers on the shop floor the lowest of the low, and everyone is working upwards, trying to impress the level above. So the workers on the shop floor are working to try and impress the supervisors. We're in turn trying to impress the shift managers. Everyone working towards impressing because this is the way we do business, the top man, whoever that may be. And in China, they have an opposite system where the triangle is inverted, is upside down, and it just works in reverse, where everyone in that organization works in support of the most important people there. The workers on the shop floor to make sure they have the right equipment, they're given the right time, they are happy, they're productive. Sorry for you, Carol. No, that was it in there. Who's performing the best, China or the wet? They've got problems in China, but it's productivity. They're sort of dominating and I don't see where the change comes that all of a sudden the people at the top start working, where everyone works towards looking after their main assets, the workers. It may come I'm quite cynical. I think it's in bread, the way we operate. So I'm not seeing any change coming anytime soon. What we're seeing, Pete, is the skilled visa route is being used not just for shop floor workers. It's being used to fill in where vital skills in middle management can't be found. Francesca mentioned about engineering earlier in the discussion. That's a good example. Another example is information technology, where we basically have not got those skills in this country and we have to buy them in because we have not got them available locally. And I think to me, the skilled visa route should just be one of the tools in the box of management has available to them. It's not the solution to everything, but it is something that should not be ignored, it should be explored. Any members of management of any British company that has struggled with their labor force in the last couple of years need to invest the time to understand the way that it works and the opportunities that it could open up to them. And I think that kind of leads on to my next point, is about how is progress being made? So just some numbers for you. There has been a year on year increase for the uptake of visas. Obviously, COVID had a massive impact, and during that time it did mean that maybe less than there would have been was processed. But from 2019, there was 192,000 and some change visas processed. In 2021, that's gone up to 239,000, nearly 240,000. Now, we don't have any data yet for this year, but it shows you that more businesses are going down that route. So what do we, as an organization, as skills provision, what would we like to see and what are we doing to kind of go in this positive direction of increasing the uptake, as you rightly say, Chris, for those businesses, our employers that we work with, that this may be their only route to solve problems. So one point, and I think we could all agree on this, is the continual expansion of the eligible codes that are on there and for the government to review the ones that are on there, and maybe some blindingly obvious ones, in our opinion, that seem to be missing. I don't know if there are any other ones outside from HGV driving. To me, that seem a blindingly obvious one that should be on there. It would be lovely if it was, because it would make our job very easy. But you have to go back to what's the motivation for the British Government? British Government wants to get British employers to increase the wages for the British workforce. And that has certainly worked as far as HGV drivers, who've probably seen their wages move from about £12 an hour to £16 an hour due to the shortage factor. So, in a way, it's a double edged sword. You can criticize the Government for not including HGV, but if you had, there'd be a lot of very aggrieved UK HGV drivers who are still on £12 an hour as opposed to £16 an hour. So it's the niche areas where I think they should look. If people can't genuinely find the resources that they want, then what are they supposed to do? Now, some of the old craft industries are incredibly short supply. Sewing machine operators is an example. Not that you get that much of a demand, but things like furniture making, there's a real shortage and we just don't have those skills or training schemes in this country to grow our own. Now, if the Government wants to invest in training to avoid immigration, that's another discussion. Not for this podcast, but it is a different way of moving things forward. The thing that I'm expecting to see, and I won't be popular with this comment, is I expect the Government will put up the minimum employment rates of pay for immigration within the next year, because where they set them at the time was about a pound an hour above the minimum wage in this country. But because of the inflationary pressures, we have moved past that. And to try and get anybody to work in the UK for less than about £11 an hour is nigh on impossible. So I suspect that the Government will increase the rates of pay, but employers have had the opportunity of basically having a two to three year period where it is not really cost them any more in terms of hourly rates for payment of workers that have been brought in. But that could happen into the future. Yes. Meeting the requirements with the national living wage, especially obviously, for those over at the age of 23. I think another thing, and it's something that we've kind of one of our opening statements, is more allotments for those struggling industries and perhaps a reduction in costs to some of those struggling industries. Now, one industry that we haven't really touched on, that we all know is struggling because there is constant media attention on it, is to do with the NHS and the care sector where they want people. But these organizations cannot afford to go down the route. So what other methods or routes could become available for these businesses is such a simple solution, which we put to the Government in April 2020, is the Government has created this situation of this massive shortfall. So they should pick up the costs of immigration for anyone in the care sector, not force those costs onto the NHS, which is the government anyway, or the private sector, which is bust in many respects because of the very poor rates of reimbursement that has been forced through and is no longer profitable for people to be operating care homes or care in the community type businesses. Now they're hanging on by a thread and they need help. The help needs to come from central government. Okay, it means you and I are paying those bills, but so what? To me, if we need 50,000 nurses, we need 50,000 nurses. If there's an economic cost to getting them into the country, let the country pay for it. From your side, Pete, do you feel like there's anything else that you, I don't know, given your history or anything like that, where you think you'd like to see some changes? Yes, and Chris rightly touched on a lot of these relevant salient points. There's obviously a shortage of the NHS, care, all that kind of stuff, artisan type trades. We have the manpower or we have a pool of manpower training. You take the longterm unemployed and you train them to be sew, machine operators, furniture repair, slow time, slow time, pay them fairly, build their confidence. They're disabled. We're bigot skills provision on ethical recruitment. All those prison leavers, longterm unemployed, the no hopeers of society. Let's get systems in place to start motivating, to give them something to do, to give a purpose in life and to start making them productive, to feel worthy of self worth. That will make a difference. Not we'll have them in the fields and we'll order, that ain't going to work. £50 an hour ain't going to work, then they're up for that. But slowly nurture, slowly develop. We've got a massive and then integrate them into normal society. That's where the answer is. We've just never done it properly. And it's almost like the sledge hammer to crack a nut. We will force by various means, which has never worked, but they've never done it properly. By giving people self respect back, by giving people a purpose in life, to get out of bed and to do something worthwhile because there's nothing better. Do a good bit of work, be treated well, be congratulated for it, and then you want to keep repeating. And that's what I see we need to change as a society. I think, to be honest, that the leadership for such programs can't come from the private sector. Execution of the programs can come from the private sector, that the leadership has to come from central government to create the means to be able to put such schemes in place. I genuinely believe that the private sector is best dealing with the execution. If we were talking about the health care sector, we've got over 1000 healthcare workers on our system at the moment. But unless central government wants to engage, where are those people going to go? And it needs big decisions to be made and those need to be wide, sweeping and not that difficult to actually put in place if everybody is thinking along the same track. But if it's people wanting to save a pound here and a pound there and not wanting to pay a fair day's work for a fair day's pay, then I, for one, have an awful lot of sympathy with the nurses and why they're on strike at the moment. It's a very good point. It's something I wanted to raise earlier. And we don't get the number, the numbers. So Francesca spoke earlier about the numbers from 2019, the number of visas that have been issued. The information we don't have is how many of those people are still in place, because that gives us the quality of the recruitment as such and the quality of the people that have been put into place from what locations. And from that you can start to improve, make the system more effective. We do have some information on where the people have come from. More than 50% have come from India. But you've got to then put that in context. With 1.3 billion population, which is roughly 20% of the world's population, it's not surprising you get a lot of Indians coming. And the other point is, whilst a lot is made of daily rates of pay, understandable, and it's an area we have challenges in and operate around, is that the part that we don't realize? Let's say we do a fair bit of work in the operating the fisheries industry, so that the cost of, let's say let's break it down blocks of 1010 new workers going into the factory, the same factory where we've placed a lot of workers at a cost of X. All fees, visa fees, fees for fees, support and accommodation. There will be, let's call it X. The part that we don't realize, and this is where it's it's almost like the employer wants it all their ways, is how much money for the company does one worker produce? The return of investment. Exactly. The ROI on that, and I believe in some areas, the ROI, for someone that could be banging away for 12 hours a day processing fish that's been sold at a premium is massive. So it's almost like that the employers are looking at it, oh, it's going to cost me this, it's going to cost me that. Yeah, obviously. But what can these workers do for your bin? Like, we're not if what was it in 2022? £60 million of crops were destroyed. So what if we have the workers in place and nothing was being destroyed? We're not losing 60 people, businesses are not losing 60 million. So it's almost like it's a little bit like threecar Brag and the playing cards with the experts. Everyone wants to slightly marginalize their own position for the benefit rather than being more open upfront. I'm willing to give and take in both measures for the benefit of getting people into work. Because the more people get into work, the better everything is going to be for everyone. Even central government has to be more tax, less of a burden. But it's like the unseen part of it. I'm the same as Chris. If the workers are mistreated and they're not paid for, get strike, make it known. Because if you don't do anything, then there's no changes. You're just going to keep maintaining the status quo. Nothing's going to happen, no changes coming. Clearly, the employers that have gone down this route must be enjoying an acceptable return on investment, otherwise they wouldn't be doing it. They may not have known quite what the return on investment was going to be when they took the plunge. And maybe the first 6810 workers was a little bit of a gamble on their side because they would have been worried about whether their processing rates for the teams will be at the level that they needed to be to bring an economic benefit. But if the same employers come back and order another ten, then another ten, then another ten is pretty indicative that the numbers must be working out for them. You're seeing a lot of that franchise currently. Yeah, especially in those areas where I would say more so in your high volume or lower skilled industries is definitely obviously they want more workers. Your middle management obviously go naturally and you're going to be one or two people here and there. But, yeah, the demand does keep going back. It is just those other external factors to think about, about where someone's going to stay. It works then, doesn't it? It's just a matter of it's probably down to people like Skills Provision other and others to get the message out there, isn't it? This system will work, definitely. And I think that kind of leads me on to the closing kind of remarks I wanted to make for our audience out there. Whether you're an employer, job seeker or a business that could feel as they could work with us in this type of work for employers, if you your business is struggling or you want to know more about this process, please do contact us. We've only touched on a few points on this podcast. There's many more things that we can discuss and give our expertise to kind of educate you and alleviate maybe some problems or questions you may have when thinking about this as a potential route. Job seekers. If you're interested in any employment opportunities in the UK, you can apply for these on the Skills Provision website. And as Pete will attest to, there's been a lot of people applying for these different jobs. Now, the other businesses that we'd love to hear from are any of those organizations, whether those are other recruiters or businesses offering services that can help support with the process. So that could be manpower, it could be education for those workers who are wanting to go down this route that maybe their English language is not at a level that is currently required for these positions. So IELTS. Training or any other services that might better benefit the workers and our employers. We're always interested to hear from those organizations, from either of you two. Is there anything else that you would like to see or people that you would like to hear from and contact us? There's some people I don't want to hear from. Okay. Which sounds a real negative, but we have embraced ethical recruitment. And ethical recruitment means what it says on the tin that we have to treat people with equality, no discrimination, no gender bias and all the rest of the things. Now, in Africa and in Asia, there is a tendency for the suppliers there to charge very hefty fees to job seekers. We cannot deal with any company that does that. For example, the NHS has an ethical recruitment posture. We are an approved supplier to the NHS and as such, if we were ever discovered to be supplying people which had not been sourced through an ethical recruitment route, that would be the end of our supply base to the NHS. Now, we do pay modest fees, but they are sometimes nowhere near the fees that African recruiters or Asian recruiters are charging individuals. I'm not saying that they need to change their policies. It's up to them. It might work for them in their market, but it won't work if they want to do business with skills provision and our ethical recruitment approach. So please address exactly your own means of recruitment before approaching us. And, Pete, from your side, is there any sort of organizations or people that you think you'd like us to hear from? Yes, this podcast focusing on the UK market. I'd like to hear from visa specialists throughout the international market because the problems that we see within the UK, whilst different, slightly different twist, the non Brexit haven't gone through the Brexit issue, but there are problems internationally. And if we do work with in Australia, likes of Canada and many US visa specialists internationally, reach out. We'd be interested to talk to you and the services that you can offer and the support that you can provide our growing employer base. Okay, well, thank you to all our listeners out there. From me. Francesca. It's goodbye, Pete. Goodbye and have a nice holiday. And Chris with seasons greeting for Christmas 2022. I hope everyone stays well and stay safe. See you on the next podcast.