Brexit Recruitment: Tips for Tackling Skills Shortages

We all know the UK’s decision to leave the EU will impact the recruitment industry, but by just how much we don’t quite know yet. However, recent data suggests we’re already starting to see the effects of Brexit on the UK workforce. So what can you do as a recruiter to prepare yourself for the changes?

The situation now

two men assessing document on large screen with map in backgroundThe UK might not be leaving the EU until March 2019, but the effect of Brexit on the UK workforce is already being felt. Particularly industries like construction and hospitality, which rely heavily on foreign workers, are seeing a strong demand for talent whilst supply is frittering away – largely because we’ve seen a reduction in non-UK EU nationals working in the UK since the vote to leave.

In the CIPD’s workforce study this year, 60% of businesses that took part said they’re expecting to struggle when recruiting for highly skilled and technical roles in the next three years as a result of the Brexit vote, and 40% anticipated the same for recruiting operational staff.

With so much uncertainty facing the job market, it’s no surprise that the representation of foreign candidates in the UK candidate pool is already down 50% since the vote to leave. A scary statistic when you consider the fact that one in ten UK workers aren’t British!

What can recruiters do to tackle the skills shortage?

So let’s consider a few things you can begin doing now as a recruiter to best prepare yourself for the skills shortage we’re already seeing as a result of the Brexit vote.

  1. Know your sponsored occupations list – if any of these roles apply to your sector, suitable candidates will be gold dust, so if you’re able to nurture a loyal relationship with them, you’re on to a winner! Otherwise, if you have a candidate who’s a non-UK resident and their occupations isn’t listed here, there’s very little chance you’ll be able to proceed with them after March 2019.
  2. Improve your talent pooling – talent pooling effectively when you're dealing with a skills shortage is all about setting up the right triggers to stay ahead of the game. And I'm not just talking about triggers for the right skill set or employment history - I'm also talking visa end dates, contract end dates etc. so you're able to get to candidates before they even come available.

    If an in-demand candidate with sought-after skills is about to reach the end of their Visa, maybe you or your client has access to different sponsorship arrangements that the candidate's current employer doesn't have? By setting up the right triggers, your CRM will ensure you're always a step ahead.
  3. Be a knowledgeable resource34% of candidates are worried about their job security as a result of Brexit, so if you’re able to provide non-UK workers with a sense of security through your knowledge on the situation, you’ll be the first recruiter they come to if they are able to remain a part of the UK workforce post-Brexit.

    There are some changes worth flagging to candidates at this stage too, such as the fact that immigration rules for non-EU migrants will apply to EU migrants after Brexit and it’s expected that a Resident Labour Market Tests and a work-sponsorship system will be put in place. Just be cautious of the facts and don’t claim to be an expert – let’s be honest, at this stage no one is!
  4. Think about programs that can be devised to upskill or fast-track candidates to the level that you require. VETS Now’s edge programme is a great example of how this can work – if you’re having trouble finding candidates skilled highly enough to suit your or your client’s hiring needs, try to think creatively about ways you can upskill candidates or current employees so they fit the bill. Another bonus of this is that it frees up lower level positions which will be easier for you to fill!
  5. Encourage hiring managers to hire for fit and train for skill – This won’t apply in every case but definitely something worth keeping in mind. 65% of employers questioned in the CIPD’s workforce report said the skills needed to fill jobs in their organisation were changing. So, how can you take advantage of this as a recruiter?

    This TED talk from Regina Hartley includes some interesting words on how innovative HR teams look for ‘scrappers’ in amongst their applicants – in other words, candidates who aren’t specifically qualified for the role in question but who demonstrate adaptability and resilience in their track record.

    Changing hiring habits so we’re a bit more open minded about candidate pools and bringing in candidates on the grounds of a good fit and training them for skill could be another potential solution to skills shortages.

    A nice quote I think sums this thinking up well is this:

    If you want to renew and re-energize an industry don’t hire people from that industry. You’ve got to untrain them and then retrain them. I’d rather hire a jazz musician, a dancer, or a captain in the Israeli army. They can learn about banking. It’s much harder for bankers to unlearn their bad habits.”Arkadi Kuhlmann, founder and CEO of ING Direct USA.

If you're currently hiring in temp industries that are already feeling the pinch of Brexit, download the eBook below for tips on how to create a temp desk that's consistently high-billing.

group of business people

Lisa Dey

Lisa has been working as a temp recruiter for a number of years. In her spare time, she loves going hillwalking with her daughter.

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