After the Brexit referendum outcome was announced in 2016, Crimson initially saw a slight softening in number of IT recruitment requirements from some of its clients. This was likely due to a ‘fear of the unknown’. However, the IT jobs market didn’t dwell on this for long, and good levels of activity continued throughout 2018. Come Friday 29 March 2019, the day scheduled for Britain to leave the EU, the market for tech talent may look and feel very different.
As an IT recruitment agency, Crimson is concerned that that the current skills shortage may be exacerbated by Brexit, as a substantial portion of the UK’s tech talent originates from the EU. The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) has estimated that 6% of digital technology workers are EU nationals, and that 20% of tech workers in London originate from the EU. Should a large portion of these people decide they don’t want to live and work in post-Brexit Britain, a very substantial void could be created in the IT jobs market place, particularly in the capital.
Deliotte’s 2017 report, Power up: The UK Workplace said 89% of the 2,242 people it surveyed felt the UK remained a highly attractive destination to move to for work. Nevertheless, it also recognised that Brexit had shifted perceptions. Of the people it surveyed based outside the UK, 21% found Britain a less attractive prospect for work after Brexit was announced. This rose to 48% among the EU talent currently working in the UK.
The UK government has been working on solutions to tackle this potential problem. It has reserved a quota of 200 ‘exceptional ability visas’ for digital leaders. However, this allocation is unlikely to be significant enough to support the IT recruitment requirements of all UK organisations. In addition, there have been discussions about granting work visas to jobs with salaries that pay £30,000 a year or more, in a bid to attract only the most desirable candidates from abroad. If this idea were to be implemented, it may assist the technology sector in retaining its EU talent. This is because technology workers tend to be paid much higher salaries than employees in other sectors that rely heavily on EU workers, like construction and healthcare.
The Deloitte report also suggested that Brexit may become a catalyst for the acceleration of automation of IT tasks. This may occur in a bid to increase labour productivity, fill the skills void, and create better quality jobs. However, Crimson believes that both organisations and individuals need to continually develop their technology skills, so workers can move into higher-skilled roles, which will be less threatened by AI.
Bringing it all together
Brexit is likely to cause some skilled EU nationals currently working in technology to leave the UK. How many, only time will tell.
It will be down to the government, and to organisations, to incentivise the most sought-after talented technology workers to stay.
British IT candidates should also treat Brexit as an opportunity to make themselves even more desirable. If British candidates invest in developing additional technical and personal skills, they could propel their careers to new heights in an extremely competitive IT jobs marketplace.