Nearly half of UK manufacturers fear post-Brexit skills crunch

A new EEF report has found that 47 per cent of UK manufacturers are concerned about accessing the skills they require after the UK leaves the EU.


Navigating Brexit: The Migration Minefield”, urges more clarity from the UK government in relation to the post-Brexit landscape. According to the report, more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of manufacturers want guidance on what the changes after March 2019 will mean for employers and their EU employees.

While the overall rate of EU workers departing the UK has eased, 17 per cent of companies reported a drop in applications from EU citizens, while 13 per cent are still seeing an increase in European workers leaving their jobs. The EEF claims that many of those employees are returning to the EU permanently, with companies struggling to recruit suitably skilled staff in the UK.

“Skills shortages are endemic in manufacturing and engineering and companies are becoming increasingly concerned about their ability to access the skills they need post-Brexit,” said Tim Thomas, director of Skills and Employment Policy at EEF.

“While the slump in job applications from the EU has slowed, there is still much to be done to make sure UK businesses are still able to attract the very best talent from Europe over the coming months as we proceed towards our exit from the EU as well as retaining that talent after Britain leaves the EU.”

To mitigate against the skills shortage, companies are investing more in their existing workforces. Almost half of the respondents (47 per cent) are increasing training programmes for all current employees with 37 per cent boosting apprenticeship and/or graduate recruitment schemes. One in five (20 per cent) companies say they will improve pay and benefits, with a similar number (21 per cent) looking to accelerate automation plans.

One particular area where the EEF is seeking clarity is workers who are posted to Europe from the UK. Whether just a short trip for a trade fair or exhibition, or a longer posting to conduct business, the majority of UK manufacturers (71 per cent) regularly send employees to the EU. Minimising the red tape around these trips post-Brexit is vitally important for industry, according to Thomas.

“Many companies do not realise that sending a member of staff to the EU to attend a conference or trade show involves the same posting mechanism as sending someone to the EU for a month or more,” he said.

“The government must deliver a good trade deal which lets businesses travel into the EU for short-term posting as a matter of urgency. This is particularly important in terms of servicing and repair work which are tied into most contracts as well as having the ability to attend trade fairs and market new products and services to sell into EU markets.”