Tech businesses in post-Brexit Britain will face critical talent shortfall

Coadec has warned that unless government action - such as launching a high-skilled visa - is taken, the tech sector risks 800,000 talent shortage

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Britain’s tech leaders have called for the launch of a high-skilled visa to protect the country’s tech businesses, following findings of a new report which suggest there will be a 800,000 shortage of vital skilled workers by 2020 without government action.

Commenting on the report A Global Britain, from local startups to international markets – which found that nearly one third of UK tech companies’ first 10 hires are from outside the UK – The Coalition for a Digital Economy (Coadec) has warned that government restrictions on skilled overseas workers “risk choking off” the tech sector.

The UK’s tech industry is booming

The policy group has claimed that this “choking” could have a damning effect on the UK economy as the digital tech sector currently accounts for 16% of domestic output, 10% of all UK jobs, and received an estimated £6.7bn investment in 2016.

The economic contribution of the country’s construction and automotive industries pale in comparison – the UK’s construction industry accounts for 6% of all jobs while the automotive sector received £1.66bn investment in 2016.

Given the recent boom of the tech industry, Coadec has argued industry leaders are fearful that post-Brexit, and with new curbs on immigration from the EU, the UK could face a “critical shortfall of digital workers” unless ministers take steps to speed up the flow of international talent. Apparently, Britain needs 2.3 million digitally skilled workers by 2020 to fulfill the country’s digital potential.

Coadec’s proposed solution is for the government to create a six-month high-skilled tech visa which would allow qualified people to enter the UK and work for digital tech businesses…

The proposed high-skilled visa scheme

To qualify for the visa, the migrant would have to have studied at a designated institution or have passed a standardised, high-level exam in specific programming languages.

After the six month period, if the migrant does not a receive a job offer they would have to return home. If an employer wished to hire them, the report recommends that people on the visa should be exempt from the Resident Labour Market Test; dubbed “the biggest drag on start-ups’ time and growth potential”.

The report has urged the government to pilot the visa scheme with a small number of highly trusted tech companies, who would endorse other companies. Once through this process, start-ups would be able to hire Tier 2 workers.

On the visa proposal, Alex Depledge MBE, chair of Coadec and co-founder of Hassle, said:

“If Britain is going to succeed in a post-Brexit world, the UK’s tech sector must be able to hire global talent. That means a smart visa system that enables the best and the brightest to come to the UK from wherever they are in the world.”

Jan Hammer, Index Ventures, continued: “The message to the UK government is simple. The most vital ingredient for the success of high-growth startups is the availability of talent. Visa rules that make the hiring process time consuming and costly, will make the UK and its start-ups less competitive.”


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