Mind the skills gap: UK faces a Brexit recruitment crunch without EU workers rights, manufacturing industry group EEF warns


Manufacturers struggle to find workers with the right skills (Source: Getty)

Britain's manufacturing industry has warned of a "looming crunch" in recruiting workers if the government fails to address the issue of being able to hire from the EU after Brexit.

The number of applicants from European workers has already fallen by a quarter, manufacturing body the EEF has said, with businesses noting a 16 per cent rise in the number of EU workers leaving their employment.

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The latest figures add to an existing skills shortage which means three quarters of manufacturers already struggle to fill the jobs they have. A third of them turn to workers from abroad due to the gap.

“Preventing industry from being able to recruit the best skilled workers from the EU could stifle growth, damage British industry and the UK economy as a whole," said director of employment and skills at the organisation, Tim Thomas.

“As a priority the government should clarify the reciprocal rights of EU nationals in the UK and British nationals currently working in other EU member states. At the same time, ministers must map out a new model for immigration to come into force when the UK leaves the EU, including a phased implementation over a sustained period.

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The call comes as the UK embarks on a fresh round of negotiations with Europe to agree a deal on Brexit.

Figures last month suggested the UK's skills gap could cost the economy £90bn by 2024 and came with a warning that this could be exacerbated by Brexit.

Thomas added: “Skills shortages are endemic in manufacturing and engineering, and any points based-type system would choke off the skills needed by this sector. A highly-skilled STEM route should be introduced to enable non-EU STEM professionals to seek work in the UK without a job offer within a reasonable timeframe.”