Closing The Skills Gap: The Sectors That Most Need Immigrant Talent

With preparations for Brexit gathering pace in the face of the looming March 29th deadline, one of the main areas in which the Government are making controversial proposals is immigration. Most worryingly for many has been the Prime Minister’s pledge to cut “low-skilled migration”, barring workers who traditionally earn below £30,000 from entering the country.

While the PM’s insistence that her new immigration policy “will be a skills-based system…that looks across the globe and attracts the people with the skills we need”, this plan has become a major cause for concern across a number of industries which rely on immigrant talent, regardless of pay grade.  Many business think tanks have described these plans as potentially harmful, and complex enough to necessitate being “phased in gradually”.

Roles in hospitality and many other customer-facing jobs are often cited when MPs discuss measures of this nature. However, the wider nationwide skills gap will also be broadened even further through this new system of immigration. The Guardian points out that “in at least 18 specialist industries EU workers constitute more than 20% of the labour force”. Here are three sectors who are best able to close the gap through overseas talent.


According to research from 2017, an astonishing 94% of employers believe there is a skills shortage in the tech sector which stretches across the entire industry. While this research has shown businesses to engage in their own internal training programs, a severely reduced immigration policy is likely to diminish the number of candidates applying for these entry-level roles in the first place.

As a result, niche job sites for tech roles are enjoying something of a boom period. For example, roles in SAP—which stands for systems, applications, and products—require program-specific knowledge and are in particularly high demand. However, these jobs can be undertaken on a freelance basis, and SAP recruitment specialists have become crucial in helping to match the right expert with the right job. It also acts as an ideal way for British companies who need to hire international experts to circumvent the curbing of lower-skilled immigrants.


With such a high internal perception of a dearth of tech talent, it’s no surprise that this skills gap has managed to impact other industries. Research from TotalJobs has shown that 60% of employers in the finance sector believe that a skills shortage will have at least a moderate impact on their work, with nearly as many citing Brexit as the reason.

Financial technology has taken a notable hit, with one survey of UK fintech workers showing that 82% of companies in the sector struggle with finding talented staff outside of the EEA. The same survey also predicts that, as immigration law tightens, the sector stands to lose £361 million, as a result of a deficit of 3200 fintech experts who would have otherwise come in from other territories.


The most recent statistics show that 20.5% of workers in the manufacturing industry were born outside of the UK, a fact which has come to overshadow the conversation at some of the sector’s biggest conferences. One report from June 2018 states that the impact of the manufacturing sector—taking in the full extent of the supply chain—is comprised of 5 million jobs and contributes to 15% of the UK economy.

Roles within the manufacturing sector are extremely varied, and aren’t just based on the factory floor. From research and development and product testing to sales and customer support, the manufacturing talent pool requires a vast array of skill sets to function. Schemes are being put in place to usher graduates into manufacturing roles, with   apprenticeship programs to encourage the next generation of homegrown talent. However, until those schemes are established, finding capable manufacturing experts from overseas should be the most pressing priority for any business in need of talent.

Claire James
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