Brexit is looming, the effects on the supply chain industry are unknown but how will it impact supply chain recruitment specifically? Read on to explore the potential issues…
That the UK’s logistics and supply chain operations are heavily dependent upon labour from other EU countries is no secret. Without immigration, our trucks would not be driven and our shelves would be left unstacked.
Skills in the UK and beyond…
Less well appreciated is the extent to which supply chains depend on professional and executive talent from around the world. This can be because of a requirement for language and cultural knowledge of countries with which we are trading, or there may be a need for specific technical skills, as a substantial amount of the equipment and systems we use is supplied from Germany, Italy and elsewhere.
London is still a world leader in shipping, trade insurance and supply chain finance, as it has been for many years. We host the EMEA headquarters for a myriad of overseas companies who expect to move strategic, technical and project staff around, sometimes on long-term accompanied postings. Sometimes the overseas executive is simply the best available talent.
But, post-Brexit, could all this change? ‘Free movement’ of EU citizens, to work and to settle, will no longer automatically apply, though mechanisms are in place to secure the rights of those three million already settled in the UK, and apparently there will be no sudden changes after 31st October.
What is the proposed post-Brexit points system?
The new PM is believed to advocate an Australian-style ‘points’ system. This allocates points according to age, English language skills, work experience, qualifications and ‘relevant skills’, as well as employment in a skilled occupation recognised as experiencing shortages. However, there is a cap on the number of successful applications each year.
Interestingly, the current UK system for non-EU immigrants is also called a points system although this is misleading, as each criterion is pass/fail. Criteria include being sponsored by an employer for a job that meets certain skills criteria and, with exceptions, where the employer can show they have tried to fill the vacancy in the UK/EU market; appropriate salary; English language skills; and having sufficient funds. There is a strict cap of just over 20,000 a year, except for ‘high earners’, doctors and nurses, and a few others.
This is already limiting for non-EU supply chain professionals. If either the current UK scheme, or an Australia-style points scheme, is extended to EU nationals, the effects could be quite serious.
What does this mean for the supply chain industry?
The problems are evident. Supply chain is a wide category covering a range of disciplines so is impossible to define as an ‘occupation’ in which there is a demonstrable ‘shortage’, even though anyone in business knows this to be true. Unlike in some countries, none of the disciplines – procurement, materials management, logistics – is formally recognised as a ‘profession’, on a par with architects, doctors and some types of engineer. Many of the best practitioners, don’t have an academic qualification in the subject.
At a time when Brexit trade and other frictions could impact the effectiveness of the UK as a headquarters or operations centre, the ability to employ the best international supply chain skills is paramount. Worryingly, and as we have seen throughout the Brexit process, there is some doubt as to how many politicians and civil servants actually know what a supply chain is.
A word from Leigh Anderson, Managing Director, Bis Henderson Recruitment...
Even prior to Brexit, over 50% of supply chain companies were struggling to find sufficient talent so the introduction of a points system will simply exacerbate a chronic shortage, as companies fight for the dwindling pipeline of qualified staff.