While the PM’s speech Tuesday focused on a plan which would ‘deliver jobs, skills and infrastructure for Britain’, a stark warning has been issued by The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) which believes that major flaws in immigration and skills training policies could scupper what is a laudable plan.
“Build build build is a positive message and we are supportive of the stimulus policy, but we need skilled professionals to deliver on the Prime Minister’s ambitious infrastructure programme,” says Tania Bowers, Head of Public affairs at APSCo. ‘Spades in the ground’ as the PM puts it is only one element of an infrastructure programme – it also needs engineers, technical designers, project managers and technologists – skills that have in recent years been thin on the ground in the UK.”
“The Government’s post Brexit Immigration Bill has no visa route for independent professionals – this is a crucial point because with skills shortage across many high skilled sectors such as engineering, technology and construction, we need an immigration system that recognises that the UK’s ability to deliver on its recovery pivots on access to skills and a flexible workforce.”
“Freedom of movement has so far allowed independent professionals recruited from the EU to work in skill short sectors to support British businesses and operate with complete flexibility and without being bound to one specific role. They often work on medium to long term projects which have a beginning and an end – projects that the employer does not need a permanent employee for. The lack of any dedicated visa route for these highly skilled professionals is a real concern.”
APSCo also highlights major issues with the Apprenticeship Levy.
“Despite millions of people on furlough or out of work and looking for new employment opportunities, businesses can’t use their apprenticeship levy pots to fund training for these individuals. The Government needs to look urgently at proposals to broaden the use of the Apprenticeship Levy and to ring fence monies in levy pots for use in national training programmes. Providing a jobs guarantee for every young person in an apprenticeship or an in-work placement is a laudable promise, but simply creating an entry level workforce is not the answer – we must target technical training in skills shortage occupations and address the need for highly skilled professionals so that we can both nurture and retain great talent to help deliver these major infrastructure programmes.”