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Flexibility needed in face of Brexit

Ann Swain, CEO of APSCo


The ongoing turmoil in Westminster is now reaching unprecedented levels. However, rather than simply watching the soap opera which British politics now resembles unfold from the side-lines, APSCo is on the ground and getting involved. Behind the scenes, the team here has been working tirelessly to ensure the voices of our members are heard in government during this pivotal period.    


Over the past 20 years, we have been extremely proud of our proactive and effective approach to lobbying government – and the significant wins we have secured as a result. However, in recent months we have stepped up our stakeholder engagement programme, getting in front of Members of Parliament from both houses and various parties, representing constituencies across the UK, who are looking for guidance on future policy.


For our members, the state of limbo which endures around Brexit is simply not acceptable. End clients have, in recent months, started getting on with projects that were put on hold due to the uncertainty - and it is a real worry that the labour market will slow down again as a new deadline approaches.


Professional recruiters are concerned about not only the ongoing uncertainty, but also the ramifications of a no deal Brexit. UK nationals working in the EEA still have very little clarity on their status in the event of the UK leaving Europe without a deal, as this will depend on the position taken by each of the EU 27 separately. Furthermore, the government’s white paper, with its focus on Tier 2 employed status, fails to consider the loss of EU self-employed contractors to the domestic workforce.  


We are hammering home the value of skilled flexible contractors and how they support business growth. We have also asked the Home Affairs Select Committee how the future skills-based immigration system will enable highly skilled contractors from overseas to fill temporary roles and provide specialist services in the UK workforce post-Brexit, whether as self-employed or employed. What visa routes will be introduced in the future skills-based immigration system to enable highly skilled contractors from overseas to continue to provide temporary and specialist services in the UK post-Brexit remains on our radar as well.


While future migration policy, of course, remains a hot topic, beyond Brexit we have also been consulting with government on skills gap and training and apprenticeship issues.


The government’s current Industrial Strategy recognises the economic imbalance that exists between London and areas outside of the capital and is committed to boosting regional economies through the provision of strong infrastructure and favourable business environments. However, the success of these programmes rests on the availability of skills, with talent gaps particularly acute within engineering and IT hubs across the UK. In meetings with policy makers representing Scotland, the Midlands and the North of England, we have been discussing how we can collectively address these shortages.


Furthermore, we have met with members of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee and other relevant All Party Parliamentary Groups to push for changes to the Apprenticeship Levy scheme. It is our view that the system is still not flexible enough, and more should be done to ensure that funds are available to address real-world challenges, such as upskilling professionals to meet the demands of the future workplace and making pots available to the contractor workforce.


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