Migration uncertainty hampering UK exporters

Uncertainty over the pool of skilled labour continues to hold back UK exporters who are experiencing an increase in orders.

UK exports: container ship
Two-thirds of UK manufacturers struggled to recruit suitably qualified staff in the first quarter of the year, partly because of “lack of clarity” over post-Brexit immigration rules, according to a new major survey.

Labour shortages affecting manufacturing

The survey of more than 3,300 exporters, conducted by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and logistics company DHL, represented the latest call from business groups anxious to get greater access to overseas skills.Published in the BCC’s Quarterly International Trade Outlook, the survey showed exporters – particularly manufacturers, were being hampered by widespread labour shortages. Skills shortages were reported by 66 per cent of manufacturers who were recruiting in the first quarter, and 57 per cent of services exporters.“In the manufacturing sector, the greatest difficulty was in finding skilled manual and technical labour (66 per cent) and, in the services sector, it was professional and managerial level positions (53 per cent),” said the CBI.“Addressing the growing skills gap is a joint responsibility for business, government and the education sector. Companies themselves must do more to invest in training, but to do that they need to be confident that the apprenticeship and training system is fit for purpose.“The continued lack of clarity over future immigration rules – and business access to skills from overseas – is also a key issue where urgent action is required.”
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Exporters continue to increase volume of trade

The survey also found that 45 per cent exporting manufacturers and 28 per cent of service companies experienced increased orders from overseas in the first quarter.BCC/DHL’s Trade Confidence Index, a measure of the volume of trade documentation issued nationally, rose by 2.24 per cent over to stand at 126.82 – the second highest level since records began in 2004.Dr Adam Marshall, director-general of the BCC, said, “At a time of significant uncertainty and change, it’s pleasing to be able to report that many UK exporters are doing well. Yet many tell us that their future prospects are being constrained because it’s becoming harder and harder to recruit the people they need to grow.“Businesses with global ambitions are facing critical skills gaps at just about every level. The combination of decades of constant change in the training system, declines in immigration, and tight local labour markets are stopping many firms from making key investments.“A stable training system, a reformed apprenticeship levy, answers to practical questions around Brexit and clarity on the UK’s future immigration regime are urgently needed. Get these right, and exporters all across the UK will take risks, invest and grow.”Ian Wilson, chief executive of DHL Express UK and Ireland, added, “The positive Trade Confidence Index resonates with the success we’re seeing from UK businesses trading internationally.
“There are of course still many challenges for UK businesses, as this report highlights. The skills shortage is a significant concern, which is why it’s more important than ever to consider your retention strategies and people development programmes.“Brexit is also driving considerable uncertainty, and businesses should broaden their portfolio of international markets to spread risk in these changing times. We join the BCC in pushing for decisions to be made to allow UK exporters to continue trading with confidence, as seamlessly as possible.”For related news and features, visit our Enterprise section.Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory 

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