‘Relax Visas’ to attract skills to UK

An overhaul of the visa system is necessary if the UK is to attract the global talent it needs to overcome the current skills shortage, according to a new report.

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International recruitment trade body, the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), has sent a list of 'critical policy developments' to ministers, MPs and senior civil servants, which it says are vital to make the UK’s workforce both international and flexible.

The document proposes what it says are key policy changes, including the need for a fresh review of visa policy "to ensure the UK has a labour market fit for the future, including access to international, high-skilled, independent workers that will help to fill UK skills gaps across the economy".

APSCo is also calling for post-Brexit trade deals currently being negotiated by the government to maximise opportunities for a global trade in services by including mutual recognition of standards and regulation, and by reciprocal visa agreements.

New skills visas still not enough to decrease the skills shortage in the UK

Tania Bowers, APSCo's global public policy director, described recent introductions of new skills visas, such as the Global Business Mobility (GBM) visa, as a “step in the right direction” but still not flexible enough to plug the skills gaps.

She said that the GBM, for instance, came with a sponsorship requirement, but that a contract needed to be in place before a client could act as a sponsor.

“The continued skills shortages that are being felt across the UK won’t disappear without appropriate action," Ms Bowers said.

“It’s clear that there are simply not enough resources to fill the hiring needs of the country’s employers and if the UK is to remain an economic powerhouse, greater government intervention is needed to ensure businesses can access a global and flexible labour market.

“We welcomed the recent launch of the Global Business Mobility visas, however, the sponsorship requirement makes the route for independent contractors less viable.

“The government has effectively rolled over its existing multi-national trade obligation to offer a visa for self-employed independent professionals into the Service Supplier route, offering no new flexibility. Unfortunately, this will not plug the short- to medium-term skills gap as the UK looks to upskill and re-skill the UK."

The UK continues to struggle due to the increase of vacanies leaving recruiting at a stand still

Ms Bowers added that, when it came to trade deals, the government should not only negotiate on goods and tariffs, but on the mutual recognition of services and professional qualifications as well.

She said that APSCo was also calling on the government to maintain international standards in the upcoming Data Reform Bill, whilst facilitating the frictionless storing and processing of data in the UK and internationally.

“The value of the recruitment and outsourcing industries in the UK is underpinned by their ability to securely store and process the personal data of candidates and clients," Ms Bowers said.

"Many APSCo and APSCo OutSource members are international organisations and rely on the frictionless transfer of data between the UK, EU, USA, Asia and the rest of the world to drive their productivity.

"Therefore, it is vital that the Data Reform Bill maintains standards and builds a platform for frictionless, cyber-secure transfer of data between countries."

Ms Bowers said the nation was facing a period of continued uncertainty, exacerbated by the record level of vacancies. "If the UK is to thrive post-Brexit and Covid, we need policymakers to look at the global opportunities and ensure the UK’s professional recruitment industry continues to be a global skills export success story.”

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Read more news and views from David Sapsted in the Spring 2022 issue of Think Global People.

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