UK business ‘needs Ukrainian refugee skills’

Ukrainian immigrants offer the best solution to help solve the skills shortage in the UK

skills shortage
The exodus of Ukrainians from their war-ravaged nation offers the UK the  opportunity to attract some of the talent needed to help solve a chronic skills shortage, according to the head of an executive recruitment company.But, argues Karina Robinson, CEO of Robinson Hambro, the Home Office needs to rid itself of the "chaos and confusion" surrounding Ukraine refugees and adopt a much more liberal visa system.

Will the UK offer a easier visa system?

Writing in the Financial Times, Ms Robinson - who is also founder of the City Quantum Summit, which is designed to join experts in quantum technology with the nation's financial services - says 'Global Britain' cannot continue to "overwhelm" refugees from Ukraine with off-putting bureaucratic hurdles.

"We need, instead, a recalibration of policies to attract talent. Because the UK government’s fear of immigration is out of sync with the public and the needs of the nation," she says.

Aside from what she says is the moral imperative to respond to the plight of Ukrainians, Ms Robinson cites four reasons why businesses need the existing immigration system to be re-evaluated:

  • The decline in the UK population that the Office for National Statistics has recently projected will begin in 2025, instead of its previous estimate of 2043. "This surprise plunge leaves the country dependent on migration to increase the workforce much earlier than expected."
  • Entrepreneurial companies need a constant supply of new blood at a time of record vacancies and skills shortages ranging from computer scientists to HGV drivers.
  • Before the invasion, Ms Robinson says Ukraine was the third best place in the world to find people with advanced tech skills, with more than 100 R&D centres of big global companies based there.
  • Public opinion towards immigration has shifted in recent years. Ms Robinson points to an Ipsos Mori poll conducted before the invasion of Ukraine showing that 46% of Britons now regarded immigration as good for the country - up 35% in 2015.

Will the UK welcome overseas talent?

"While the 27 countries in the EU have, to the surprise of many, managed to co-ordinate an open-door policy for refugees, chaos and confusion faces those trying to get a UK visa, as the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman noted in March," she says.

"Parts of government, including the Treasury, understand the need to welcome talent. Programmes like TechNation and the Global Talent visa prove that the UK’s famed pragmatism is no myth. But the Home Office appears to be in thrall to an outdated narrative."

Ms Robinson says that the UK needs to send a different message to the world. "Brexit was a hostile signal to Europeans, if not the world. We need to broadcast from the rooftops of La Défense in Paris to the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in Kyiv that we welcome talent.

"Business needs a common sense approach. The country needs a refugee policy that allows us to hold our heads up high. They are not incompatible."
Related articles:

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

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