British companies fear that immigration rules after Br exit, aimed at the highest and lowest-skilled European workers, will leave a “squeezed middle” of technical jobs which cannot be filled from abroad.
The Home Office has yet to set out its future visa regime for EU nationals, but the system is expected to include work permits for skilled migrants who have a firm job offer in Britain, and seasonal programmes for agricultural workers. But organisations seeking European workers for jobs in between — typically sub-graduate roles earning £16,000 to £30,000 a year in sectors such as manufacturing — are likely to be left without an obvious visa route. Examples of the roles that are likely to be most affected include butchers, many of whom are recruited from eastern Europe, as well as artisan bakers, laboratory assistants and a large variety of engineering jobs including installation engineers, lift repair personnel, gas maintenance workers, and welding technicians. Construction site managers, warehouse operatives and installation technicians would also be hit. “In many cases, skilled technicians are the most in-demand workers in our manufacturing industry and may be locked out by a non-EU style [immigration] system,” said Neil Carberry, director for people and skills at the CBI business lobby. According to the Institution of Engineering and Technology, 30 per cent of companies in the sector have struggled to recruit engineering technician roles in the past year. Over a third have expressed particular concerns about filling skills gaps after Britain has left the EU. One widely-held fear is that the Home Office will apply similar visa curbs to European workers that are currently imposed on non-EU migrants. Under these rules, only high-skilled professionals earning over £30,000 are allowed to work in Britain.
“There is a rich seam of EU migrant workers who are core to a number of our industry sectors but are sandwiched between traditional immigration categories for the highly-skilled and low-skilled,” Ms On slow-Cole said. “There is a general recognition that new immigration policies must cater for this squeezed middle of migrants with sought after skills.”