We all realise how challenging life can be these days. When it comes to work, we have a never ending onslaught of emails all demanding our swift attention. We quickly forget all the grand plans that were agreed at the last strategy day and we start to relegate tasks to tomorrow’s to do list. We all know what those tasks look like – it’s the non-customer work and the work that does not immediately contribute to our immediate financial targets.
Think of auto enrolment, GDPR or even Brexit. Those are all topics we knew were on the horizon well in advance of them taking effect. However it was only when the implementation date started to approach that we began to grapple with the scale of the task at hand and wished that we had acted a little sooner.
When it comes to planning for the future talent and skills needs of your business, the time to act is now.
As the UK immigration and visa rules for non-Europeans continues to tighten, EU free movement of people looks likely to come to an end. When combined with record low unemployment and an ever tightening labour market, it is imperative that we start thinking much more strategically about people and talent strategies.
One effective way to do this is to engage with the Migration Advisory Committee’s current review of the Shortage Occupation List. This will review which skilled roles should be officially recognised as being roles where there are gaps within the local labour market where it would be appropriate to allow employers to look abroad to fill.
Inclusion of a role on this list essentially makes it much simpler for businesses to secure visas for international staff to fill those roles. Given that there are already proposals for this type of system be extended to EU nationals post-Brexit, this review is significant as it might help to shape our migration system post-Brexit.
This list has not been fully reviewed since 2013, though there have been partial reviews looking at roles such as teachers, nurses and digital technology.
The current list contains a number of North Sea specific engineering roles, though continued inclusion of those roles on the updated list might prove challenging. Other roles on the current list range from paramedics to classical ballet dancers and radioactive waste managers.
A good prediction moving forward would be that we will see a shift away from the list being dominated by engineering roles towards inclusion of more digital technology roles, though the future list would likely retain a significant number of NHS roles as well as roles such as ballet dancers and certain types of specialist chefs.
Inclusion on the list is not guaranteed simply because there is a consensus within a sector that certain roles are hard to fill. Consultation responses which simply regurgitate anecdotes will not be effective and businesses would be well encouraged to think very strategically about how best to engage on a sector wide basis.
In this context, sectors and businesses also need to be able to justify what they themselves have been doing to address ongoing chronic skill shortages.
There are indications that the MAC could take a view moving forward that sectors need to be doing more to address skill shortages themselves and that they can no longer simply rely on turning to overseas talent whenever demand picks up unless they have been active in planning for that when demand is low.
Whilst that sound harsh, the view might be taken that it is only when easy access to overseas talent is stopped will business be forced to turn their minds to addressing ongoing chronic skill shortages in their sectors. Expect to hear words such as automation, apprenticeships, upskilling and innovation in the context of that discussion.
It would therefore be worthwhile thinking now about what skilled roles you might have difficulty in recruiting for in the future and consider engaging in the consultation exercise. If you chose not to engage now because you are short of time, do not be surprised if you get short shrift in the future when you start complaining about being unable to find the right skills to fill roles.
Jamie Kerr is a specialist immigration law Partner at Burness Paull