'˜Removal of EU as source for skilled staff would stunt growth of tech sector'

THE potential removal of the European Union as a source for skilled staff after Brexit could stunt the growth of Yorkshire's technology sector and make it harder to attract start-ups to the region, according to a leading lawyer.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 19 February, 2018, 12:16
Flora Mewies of Ward Hadaway

Flora Mewies, of top 100 law firm Ward Hadaway, said the region’s fast growing technology businesses must be allowed to contine to welcome the brightest minds from overseas in order to tackle the skills deficit.

Miss Mewies, an associate in the employment team at Ward Hadaway, said the skills gap in the technology sector means that companies can only recruit for a limited number of roles from within the UK workforce.

The Ward Hadaway Fastest 50 is a celebration of fast-growing firms

She said: “We need an effective immigration system for recruitment outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) and also to allow students studying technology-based courses to remain in the UK and take up permanent employment after completion of training.”

Ward Hadaway has worked with regional technology industry organisation Tech North on the Tech Nation Visa Scheme to help bring some of the world’s most talented tech sector workers to companies across the North of England.

Miss Mewies said: “The scheme has been running since 2015 and makes it possible for tech talent from around the world to come and work in the UK’s digital technology sector. It is a vital component to help fuel business growth.

“Talent supply is a real challenge facing all digital tech businesses not just in Yorkshire, but across the country and the removal of EU countries as a source of recruitment post-Brexit is likely to cause further problems for the sector, stunting growth and making it harder to attract start-ups and key talent.

The Ward Hadaway Fastest 50 is a celebration of fast-growing firms

“While changes to the flow of trade, EU funding and changes in regulation and legislation are posing challenges which SMEs will have to address, worries are worsened by a shortage of digital skills in more mainstream roles such as data scientists and front and back end developers.”

Miss Mewies added: “Disrupting technologies such as Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence are evolving at such a rapid pace that there are few people with the skills and experience needed to keep up-to-date with these changes and drive them forwards in commercial organisations.

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“Other areas seeing shortages include cyber security, cloud and data analytics.”

Her comments come as the build-up continues to the Yorkshire Fastest 50, the annual run-down of the fastest-growing privately owned companies in Yorkshire which Ward Hadaway sponsors and organises in association with The Yorkshire Post.

According to figures issued in a recent survey by Tech City UK, more than 50 per cent of technology businesses are worried about a shortage of highly skilled employees and nearly 25 per cent described sourcing talent as a major challenge.

As part of Tech City UK, Tech North champions the digital sector and growth of digital businesses in the North of England and Tech City UK has the ability to endorse applications for the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa. This allows up to 200 “exceptionally talented” individuals in the digital technology field to come and work or set up businesses in the UK every year.

However, this will be extended from April 2018 so that there are an additional 1,000 endorsements available each year for the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa. These will be issued to the relevant endorsing body across six sectors, on a first come first served basis.

Ward Hadaway is an official legal partner for the Tech Nation Visa Scheme.
The Yorkshire Fastest 50 takes place at Aspire in Leeds on Friday, 16th March with guest speaker Sir Keir Starmer, the Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.

Ward Hadaway continues to advise a number of companies looking to hire skilled staff on the options available to them for recruiting outside the EEA. It has also helped many skilled technology workers to secure their endorsements and visas to work in the UK tech sector.

Tech North Director, Richard Gregory, said: “Technology is a vital and fast-growing part of Yorkshire’s economy but competition for the best talent is fierce.

“As a result, for UK companies to continue to be at the forefront of the industry, it is important that they have the ability to bring in exceptional individuals from outside the country when the occasion demands it.”