Brexit and the UK Job Market

Brexit and the UK Job Market

What impact will Brexit have on the UK job market?

Many are wondering what the impact of Brexit will be on the UK job market. Here’s what we understand:

EU citizens in UK

The Office of National Statistics has revealed that the number of EU citizens migrating to the UK for work has fallen to its lowest level in four years. Equally, record numbers of EU citizens are leaving or plan to leave the UK ahead the Brexit date of 29 March 2019. This has led to disruption in the labour market with employers struggling to retain and replace ‘Brexiting’ staff. The industries which appear to have been most affected are engineering, IT, hospitality and the health & social care sectors.

Skills shortages

While the Brexit camp may argue this presents a great opportunity for UK citizens to step into these roles, the reality is a little different. The challenge employers face is finding local talent with the necessary skills to fill these roles ranging from engineers and IT specialists to doctors and nurses. This talent doesn’t necessarily exist in the UK (to the extent to fill the labour shortage) and it will take many years and a significant financial investment for people to gain the qualifications and experience required.

Recruiting talent from outside the EU also presents challenges, as other English-speaking countries like Australia and Canada are also vying for the same talent due to global skills shortages. Apart from the competition from these countries, there is a significant cost associated with recruiting and onboarding from outside the UK. As part of the EU, the UK enjoyed one of the four freedoms being ‘Freedom of movement’ which enabled EU citizens to live and work across the 28-member states without the need for visas. Post-Brexit, employers will need to recruit foreign talent differently by sponsoring them to secure work visas. Aside from the added cost, sponsored visas place a further burden on employers in terms of monitoring and administration.

Unskilled labour

There’s been much debate about skilled and non-skilled labour and while I won’t go into that right now, it’s important to remember the role that EU citizens play and have played in performing low skilled or non-skilled labour. Up until now, it’s been very easy for the UK agriculture and food production sectors, for example, to recruit foreign labour from the EU. Within a matter of hours, UK businesses have been able to assemble hard-working teams of labourers to work in fields harvesting fruits and vegetables, in factories processing and manufacturing foods and in the hospitality sector where EU citizens account for some 63% of hospitality workers in England. The soft fruit sector in the UK reportedly relies heavily on EU labour with ‘more than nine out of ten’ of its workers who harvest and process berries are coming from the European Union. EU citizens also account for up to 12% (in London) in the social care sector where they provide care services to the elderly, disabled and infirm.

Opportunities for UK citizens

While there may seem to be a lot of doom and gloom associated with Brexit, it could be argued that labour shortages (both skilled and unskilled) represent opportunities for UK citizens. With the right approach, financial investment and commitment from the UK government, it’s possible for UK citizens to make a significant contribution to meeting labour shortages supplemented with foreign labour. Government investment in education and training is needed to encourage and support the necessary skills development required particularly for those sectors experiencing the greatest shortages.

Finding a job

If you are interested in gaining either a skilled or unskilled role, it’s important to understand what employers are looking for and how you can communicate your fit for the role. In respect for skilled roles, gaining the necessary qualifications and experience is vital. In a job market experiencing staff shortages, it can be easier to make lateral and non-lateral career moves.

If you’re unsure of which direction to take, consider your value proposition and how it can be applied in the job market. This needs to be communicated clearly in your CV, LinkedIn profile, applications and finally, in an interview.

If you are interested in securing one of the many unskilled roles on offer, you will need to show personal qualities such as reliability, team work and willingness to work hard. If you have any related experience this can also be highlighted to demonstrate your ability to hit the ground running.

While there’s little doubt Brexit will cause instability in the labour market, if you understand the challenges and opportunities, you’ll be a far stronger position to land yourself a job – hopefully one that meets your career goals.

Lisa LaRue is a registered Career Coach at CareerWorx with more than 20 years’ experience helping people plan, manage and find happiness in their careers.

Lisa LaRue
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