From education to employment

New immigration policy threatens to cut businesses off to vital skills – Sector Response

The government has announced details of the immigration system that is to come into force on 1 January 2021.

Under the plan, people considered ‘low skilled’ will be unable to come to the UK for work. People who wish to come to the UK to work will be required to speak English and have a job offer with a salary of £25,600 or more with few exceptions.

The news comes as ONS labour market figures show a rise in job vacancies for the first time in a year. The REC’s JobsOutlook survey showed almost half (49%) of employers expected to find a shortage of workers.

Skills shortages are especially severe among lower paid jobs such as carers, drivers, and agricultural workers.

Home Secretary @PritiPatel sent a clear message to the world today that Britain is ready to welcome the best and brightest global #talent when the transition period comes to an end, as further detail on UK’s future immigration system are released.

Today (14 Jul), the Home Office released more detail on the UK’s points-based immigration system which will come into effect from 1 January 2021.

The new system will treat people from every part of the world equally, give us control of our borders, and help deliver a thriving economy for years to come.

Home Secretary, Priti Patel said:

“The British people voted to take back control of our borders and introduce a new points-based immigration system.

“Now we have left the EU, we are free to unleash this country’s full potential and implement the changes we need to restore trust in the immigration system and deliver a new fairer, firmer, skills-led system from 1 January 2021.

“Britain is open for business and ready to welcome the best and brightest global talent.”

The further detail will give employers the time to prepare and the new immigration system will be implemented in phases to ensure smooth delivery. Several new, simplified immigration routes will be opened including:

  • a new Health and Care Visa for key health professionals will make it easier and cheaper for health professionals to work in the UK, ensuring the NHS has continued access to the top global talent

  • a new graduate route opening in Summer 2021 will allow international students to stay in the UK once they have successfully completed their studies – students who have completed undergraduate and master’s degrees will be able to stay for 2 years and those who have completed PhD can stay for 3 years, making it easier for some of the best, international graduates to secure skilled jobs in the UK and contribute to the UK’s economic growth

Under the new system a number of existing routes will be opened to anyone, regardless of nationality.

The Global Talent Scheme allows highly-skilled scientists and researchers to come to the UK without a job offer and the student route will ensure our world-leading universities can continue to welcome the talented and high potential students to our globally renowned institutions.

The new system will also require those applying via the skilled worker route to accrue points by meeting a number of relevant criteria, such as have a job offer at the appropriate skill level, the ability to speak English and meeting the salary threshold.

The new points-based system will also expand the skills threshold for skilled workers. An applicant’s job must be at the minimum skill level of A-level or equivalent, rather than degree level under the current system. This will provide greater flexibility and ensure UK business has access to a wide pool of skilled workers.

Those EU citizens resident in the UK by 31 December 2020 can still apply to settle in the UK through the EU Settlement Scheme until 30 June 2021.

Commenting on today’s announcement from the Home Office regarding the UK’s new points-based immigration system will work:

Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli said:

“It’s thanks to the world-class talent at our disposal that universities from all four nations of the UK have helped to lead the fightback against Covid-19.

“By broadening opportunity and boosting competitiveness, the Graduate and Global Talent visas are key to ensuring that the UK remains a world leading environment for research and innovation and that our universities continue to bring together the brightest and best minds from around the world.”

CITB Strategy and Policy Director Steve Radley, said:

“CITB cautiously welcomes lowering the salary threshold for skilled migrants, increasing the number of construction occupations eligible to work in the UK, and the commitment to monitor and respond to skills shortages.

“These policies are essential in light of the Government’s expanded public investment programme and big ambitions for new homes.

“However, we need to see how this will work in practice, and to agree how we can minimise the impact of restrictions on low skilled workers. We will also work with Government to ensure self-employed people can continue to work in the UK construction industry through a new route that doesn’t require employer sponsorship.

“We also note the government’s commitment to investing in home grown talent and look forward to discussing how the apprenticeship system and Further Education can deliver better outcomes for industry.”

“This announcement gives real assurance to employers that migrant workers will be able to work in construction if they have the necessary skills, but do not hold a formal qualification.

“The inclusion of key construction roles as part of the new skilled worker route is also welcome.

“Construction employers need clarity on how they will be able to effectively access skilled workers through the new system from January, while the industry develops a home-grown workforce.

“There will remain a continued need for access to migrant workers to bridge any emerging skills gaps that could impact on recovery.”

Chair of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) UK India Business Forum, Mr Jim Bligh said:

“Indian businesses welcome the UK’s new points-based immigration. It’s positive that the UK is seeking to attract highly-skilled nationals from across the world, regardless of nationality.

“Across all sectors, Indian businesses bring in highly skilled nationals from around the world to help UK plc grow and compete.

“From high tech to haute cuisine, engineering to drug design, a smooth, skills-focused immigration system should help Indian companies across the economy to flourish in Britain in the years ahead.”

Jo Grady 100x100UCU general secretary Jo Grady said:

‘Instead of simplifying our immigration system and reducing the barriers faced by migrant workers, these proposals show that the hostile environment is alive and well in the UK. They do nothing to reduce the exorbitant visa and healthcare costs currently faced by migrant workers, and miss an opportunity to rethink restrictive minimum salary thresholds, which are a particular obstacle to attracting many of the professional services staff our universities and colleges rely upon. 

‘The crude, metrics-based approach being set out shows that this government clearly values earnings over ethics. The system would prioritise those in higher paid jobs with better education over workers who earn less, while many of those we have clapped and celebrated throughout the Covid-19 pandemic would be deemed “unskilled” and kept out of the country.

‘Migrant staff and students make a hugely valuable contribution to our education system, as well as the wider economy and society. The government’s priority should be to encourage those who wish to work or study at UK colleges and universities to do so, especially as these institutions will be central to our economic recovery.’

Tom Hadley, Director of Policy at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, said:

“Skills and staff shortages are one of the biggest challenges facing the UK economy. Roles in sectors as diverse as social care, hospitality and construction are already hard to fill which is why we need an evidence-based immigration policy that reflects the needs of employers.

“Jobs the government considers ‘low-skilled’ are vital to wellbeing and business growth. The announcement threatens shut out the people we need to provide services the public rely on. This would increase the likelihood of illegal working and exploitation. In the US, more than half of farmworkers and 15% of construction workers are unauthorized.  Nobody wants the UK to be in this position due to the lack of an official low-skilled immigration route where vulnerable workers will suffer.

“We need access to workers that can help us look after the elderly, build homes and keep the economy strong. Employers ask that there is a temporary visa route for businesses to recruit the essential skills they need at all pay and skill levels.”

Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), Brian Berry, said:

“If we are to have an infrastructure revolution and build a million new homes over the next five years, we will need to have an immigration system that allows for key construction workers of all skill levels to come UK. of all skill levels. Today’s announcement that there will no longer be a route for “low skill” workers to come to the U.K. after next year will hamper the construction industry’s capacity to deliver on key projects.”

“We will need general labourers as much as architects or surveyors. They are a core part of the construction industry and it’s simply unrealistic to assume the domestic workforce will fill this gap in the next nine months.”

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said:

“Getting a new immigration system right on day one will be critical for economic growth and the UK’s global reputation as it forges a new path outside the EU.

“Firms recognise and accept that freedom of movement is ending, and have sought a system that is both open and controlled, valuing people’s contribution beyond their salary while retaining public confidence.

“Several aspects of the new system will be welcomed by business, particularly abolishing the cap on skilled visas, introducing a new post-study work visa for overseas students, and reducing the minimum salary threshold from £30,000.

“Nonetheless, in some sectors firms will be left wondering how they will recruit the people needed to run their businesses. With already low unemployment, firms in care,  construction, hospitality, food and drink could be most affected. 

“Firms know that hiring from overseas and investing in the skills of their workforce and new technologies is not an ‘either or’ choice – both are needed to drive the economy forward.

“So careful implementation across all UK nations and regions will be required. A regularly reviewed shortage occupations list, with promises of further flexibility, will be vital for the effectiveness of the new system. Above all, the government must work with employers and employees – especially smaller firms – to ensure they have the time to adapt to new policies and practices.”

Marcia Longdon, Immigration Partner at Kingsley Napley LLP, says: 

“Today’s immigration announcement has been long anticipated. For some employers, for example in the City, not much will actually change and in fact things have been simplified. It will be welcome that, as promised, the prior advertisement requirement to test that there are no resident workers who can do the job and the cap have gone. However, given that European nationals will require sponsorship, it will be the costs and formally having to apply for a visa which will be more onerous. For others in the care home, construction and hospitality sectors for example, there will be a much greater impact as they are not being considered in the document. Given that such industries were largely supported by EU nationals, the new system is likely to be a real issue. 

“Regardless of sector, it will be critical for those without a sponsor license to apply for one as soon as possible and we can expect the Home Office to be overwhelmed with a surge of applications as employers gear up to cope with the new system. What is clear is that companies across the board will need to be more prudent in future about their people & talent planning and there will be a huge cost implication for those recruiting from overseas and administrating visas from next year.”

Catherine McGuinness, Policy Chair at the City of London Corporation, said:

“The UK’s future success depends on attracting and retaining high-quality talent. We have long said that a critical first step to achieving this is an efficient world-class visa system – it is welcome that the Government has recognised this.

“There are other parts of the new system which will be well-received by our sector, such as abolishing the skilled visas cap.

“However, the timeline for businesses to adapt to the system is ambitious. It is important that firms are given adequate notice to make the required preparations, particularly those SMEs who may not have the resources of larger employers.

“We need an immigration system that works for the whole of the financial services ecosystem. This includes those supporting industries which keep the City ticking and we look forward to engaging with the Government on this particular issue.

“The City’s diversity is one of its great strengths. To ensure the success of the Square Mile, London and wider-UK, it is crucial that we remain open and welcoming.”

Catch22’s Chief Development Officer, Mat Ilic, said:

“Today’s announcement will hit certain industries hard. Hospitality is one of those industries – with nearly 11% of all vacancies in ‘accommodation and food service activities’ – more than any other industry in the UK.

“It’s an industry that relies heavily on employees from the EU, who compromise up to 24% of the existing UK hospitality sector workforce.

“A large number of these employees will not be eligible for visas under the new system. Take chefs for example, where there is a skills shortage and roles are difficult to fill as they need specific training and experience. 50% of chefs in the UK are born abroad, rising to 85% for chefs in London. How are we going to fill these vacancies?

“There will have to be a significant changes in how vocational training and apprenticeships are profiled and delivered in these key sectors if there is any chance of filling the gaps. With more than half of UK businesses not spending their Apprenticeship Levy funds, there is significant untapped potential that will need to be realised to if we’re to create a post-Brexit workforce that will serve the needs of the country.”

NUS President Zamzam Ibrahim said:

“It is clear the government have not listened to the concerns of students in establishing this new points-based immigration system. While the reinstatement of two-year post study work visas was a positive step, by introducing financial thresholds for EU students it will close of access to the UK’s higher education system to all but the richest international students. All EU students must continue to have access to student finance if we are to meet the government’s own target of attracting 600,000 students to the UK by 2030.

“Any minimum salary threshold must be scrapped. Governments over the last decade have created precarious employment in our universities and colleges. Salary thresholds will prevent colleges and universities from recruiting the staff they need to educate our students and deny future students the opportunity to learn from those with international backgrounds. It has already been estimated that 70% of the existing EU workforce would not meet the requirements of the skilled worker route which will create a staffing crisis as universities will not be able to recruit early-career researchers.

“This new system will also prohibit the best international students from graduating into the entrepreneurial, charitable and creative industries, and any public sector not deemed valuable by our government. Already our student visas and other visa application systems are not fit for purpose; these plans will create further perverse outcomes for students and educational staff migrating to the UK alike.”

Cllr James Jamieson, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said:

“As a country we face significant skills challenges, with one of the most serious being in our social care system. We need to do what we can to ensure the social care workforce can be maintained.

“COVID-19 has resulted in a unprecedented shock to the economy and we must ensure that local and national economies have the workforces they need. A key issue for councils will be business continuity and the ability to plan for the sustainability of essential public services and that local private and public sector employers have a steady supply of the skills they need to survive.

“Salary thresholds should be variable across sector and region, to reflect the needs of different employers, alongside a reformed and devolved skills and employment system to tackle the existing national skills shortages.

“During the pandemic, our social care workers have demonstrated more than ever how important and valued they are in caring for our loved ones. With 122,000 care worker vacancies, the Government needs to ensure that social care workers are included in the new health and care visa to help fill these vital roles. Social care should be given parity of esteem with the NHS and other health professionals.

“This should be alongside the need for a long-term, sustainable funding settlement for social care and we look forward to when cross-party talks on the future of social care can begin.”

UK points-based immigration system: EU student information

Information to prepare EU students who want to study in the UK from 2021.

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