Fewer EU workers fuelling skills shortages: CIPD

New research from the professional body for HR and people development shows sectors relying most on EU nationals are leaving vacancies empty as migration falls.

Fewer EU workers fuelling skills shortages: CIPD
The CIPD’s latest Labour Market Outlook study, published in association with recruitment consultants Adecco, shows 27 per cent of UK employers have seen evidence to suggest EU nationals were considering leaving their organisation and/or the UK in 2017.This adds to data from the Office for National Statistics released last month that finds historically high numbers of job vacancies in the UK, especially where EU nationals are most prevalently employed.

Sectors where skills squeezed most

Retail and wholesale, manufacturing, health and accommodation, and food services make up almost half of all the 748,000 vacancies in the UK.The public sector is also set to be badly hit, adding to already severe shortages of teachers, doctors and other healthcare professionals. Just over four in ten (43%) of respondents in the education sector and half (49%) in the healthcare sector reported they believed EU nationals in their workforce were considering leaving.

UK a less attractive prospect post-Brexit?

The CIPD’s study also refers to further official data, which shows a sharp fall last year in the number of people from the EU coming to the UK to work.The number halved from an average 60,000 per quarter in the nine months to June 2016, to 30,000 in the three months to September 2016 – the period immediately after the UK’s referendum result to leave the EU.

“Significant recruitment challenges”

Commenting on the data, Gerwyn Davies, the CIPD’s labour market adviser, says there is a danger fewer migrant workers to the UK could limit the UK’s productivity.“The most recent official data suggests there has been a significant slowdown in the number on non-UK nationals from the European Union to work in the UK. This is creating significant recruitment challenges in sectors that have historically relied on non-UK labour to fill roles and who are particularly vulnerable to the prospect of future changes to EU immigration policy. “With skills and labour shortages set to continue, there’s a risk many vacancies will be left unfilled, which could act as a break on output growth in the UK in the years ahead.”

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Responding to the challenge

The CIPD also asked employers how they plan to respond to the recruitment challenges and any further restriction on migration. One in five said they planned to retain older workers (19%), 17 per cent would invest more in training and upskilling, the same number again would recruit more apprentices, while 16 per cent would look to recruit UK graduates. A quarter (26%) said they would pay the difference and absorb the extra cost of recruiting EU nationals. However, most said they would leave the vacancy empty.“The big decisions that Britain took last year are beginning to show in the UK labour market,” says John L Marshall, CEO of the Adecco Group in the UK and Ireland. “It is encouraging that some employers are beginning to look to new solutions for their future workforce with investment in retraining and apprenticeships, but many more need to begin this planning and investment in their workforce.“Whilst the outcome of Brexit negotiations is still uncertain, employers’ access to EU migrant workers is likely to change. Investing in young people is a solid long-term strategy, but employers also need to face the facts and prepare for a situation where they might lose access to significant numbers of skilled EU workers in the near future.”

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