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techUK Warns of Talent Cliff Edge

March 31, 2017

New techUK report explores options and recommendations for UK migration policy post-Brexit.

techUK published Global Tech Talent Powering Global Britain, urging UK politicians to recognise the critical significance of international talent in driving tech success for Global Britain.

As one of the fastest growing parts of the economy, the UK’s digital sectors account for 16% of GVA, 24% of total UK exports, and three million jobs. Of those three million, 18 per cent are foreign-born and one third are from the European Union(EU).

The UK tech sector faces a ‘triple hit’ on its ability to recruit and retain talent: the UK’s domestic digital skills pipeline still struggles to meet the growing demand, there is significant uncertainty on access to EU talent, and new restrictions to hiring non-EEA workers will further hinder the industry from April 2017.

Global Tech Talent Powering Global Britain calls on the Government to: ensure European tech talent remains attracted to the UK; reform non-EEA migration rules to alleviate shortages faced by companies; and harness digital technologies to ensure a smooth transition in a changing environment for immigration policy. Combining these recommendations to create a data-driven immigration system that is calibrated to the real-time needs of the economy. Not only would this benefit high-growth industries such as tech, but also rebuild public trust in controlled immigration fit for Global Britain.

Key recommendations of the report include:

Calling on the Government to commit to avoiding a “Tech Talent Cliff-edge”

  • Following the triggering of Article 50, tech companies are concerned by an abrupt termination of access to EU digital talent if no deal is reached. 45% of net employment growth in the digital sectors from 2009-2015 was accounted for by foreign-born workers.

Increased investment in domestic digital skills fit for a world-leading Global Britain

  • The Government should use the money raised through the £1000 Immigration Skills Charge, due to come into force in April 2017, to help fund major and world-leading domestic digital skills initiatives. According to the Migration Advisory Committee, the new Skills Charge will raise up to £250m a year. 

Excluding International Students from the Government’s net migration target

  • techUK believes this would send an open message about the UK’s world-leading Higher Education Institutions and avoid drops in university application rates, particularly for STEM subjects and post-graduate researchers.

Use new data sharing powers to expedite Right to Remain applications

  • The Government faces a huge administrative task in processing right to remain applications of EU nationals in the UK. techUK urges a review on how Government can harness data and information sharing across departments to expedite the high volume of right to remain applications that the Home Office will need to process. New clauses introduced in the new Digital Economy Bill open up new possibilities to improve Government processes and identity verification.

Commenting on the report launch, Charlotte Holloway, Policy Director at techUK, said:

“The UK’s tech success over the last decade has been built on access to global tech talent, from successful entrepreneurs who start companies here, to skilled workers in data, cyber and software, through to specialists in our universities driving innovation and commercial spinouts. UK tech must continue to be underpinned by talent that is attracted to and able to work in the UK.    

“The Government has repeatedly voiced support for tech in its recent Industrial Strategy and Digital Strategy. Now that Article 50 has been triggered, it’s time to back up that approach with concrete details on how the sector will be able to access the talent it needs. The recommendations laid out today will be key in designing a thriving talent environment fit for Global Britain.”

The paper will be launched at an event in the House of Commons on Thursday 30 March. The launch event will see contributions from

  • Louise Haigh MP, Shadow Minister for the Culture and Digital Economy
  • Nigel Adams MP, Member of Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee
  • Michael Keegan, Head of EMEIA Product Business and Chairman, Fujitsu UK & Ireland
  • Sunder Katwala, Director, British Future
  • Naomi Hanrahan-Soar, Associate Partner, Lewis Silkin LLP
  • Charlotte Holloway, Policy Director, techUK 

In January 2017, techUK laid out its top priorities for UK Government as part of forthcoming European Exit negotiations.

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