It goes without saying that Brexit will have an impact on all areas of commerce, but how will it affect people moving in and out of the digital industry? Many tech companies employ a diverse mix of European talent: will those skilled professionals be able to continue to work in the UK?
Just after the referendum, the cross-party Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Committee, now merged with another department to become Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, published a report outlining how the government should:
explain how the new digital strategy will be affected by the referendum result. At the forefront of the issues explained, the digital strategy must address head on the status of digitally-skilled workers from the European Union who currently work in the UK. The digital sector relies on skilled workforce from the European Union, and those individuals’ rights to remain in the country must be addressed, and at the earliest opportunity.
A year later, May 2017, the Conservative Manifesto stated that the government would:
ask the independent Migration Advisory Committee to make recommendations to the government about how the visa system can become better aligned with our modern industrial strategy. We envisage that the committee’s advice will allow us to set aside significant numbers of visas for workers in strategically-important sectors, such as digital technology, without adding to net migration as a whole
adding that they would double the Skills Charge levied on companies employing migrant workers, to £2,000 a year by the end of the parliament, using the revenue generated to invest in higher level skills training for workers in the UK.
We already know there is a huge gap between supply and demand of digital talent, so this idea, if it comes off, could go some way towards upskilling the UK workforce in preparation.
A January 2017 article published by the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit states that according to a recent ADMA whitepaper:
Universities are turning out students whose skills are better suited to an old way of marketing. And tight labour markets make finding and keeping the best new talent problematic. Marketers struggle with the problem of keeping everybody’s skills up to date and they argue you will never be on top of it.
They identified a number of issues, which have a direct impact on recruitment and retention in the disruptive technology and digital marketing sector:
- People need to re-skill much more quickly
- Employees leave when they are not challenged so you must keep them engaged
- Millennials change jobs so frequently that skills often just walk out the door, which makes companies sceptical about training
- Finding the best person for the role and then committing to training them up can be the best approach
- New employees often come into an organisation knowing more than the people in the department, which is the reverse of what happened in the past.
The only certainty seems to be that there is a great deal of uncertainty. There are still, and always will be, multiple objectives for the UK government and businesses to aim for in the domain of digital technology. What is clear is that the issues around hiring talent are not new, merely heightened by the vote to leave the EU and will need to be addressed regardless.