Addressing talent shortfall “crucial” for Scotland’s success

David Watt, IoD in Scotland

“In particular, these issues are a major problem for SMEs, which account for the vast majority of Scottish businesses.  A system that addresses the talent shortfall for those businesses, and is attuned to the different demographic needs of Scotland, is crucial for our country’s future economic success,” – David Watt, IoD in Scotland 

Scotland’s future success depends on a workable post-study work visa scheme, according to the Institute of Directors (IoD) in Scotland which has, this week, welcomed the publication of the UK Parliament Select Committee on Scottish Affairs report on Post-Study Work Schemes in Scotland.
The Committee’s report found that “…current rules for students studying here to remain in Scotland are too restrictive and are preventing businesses from finding skilled workers.”
David Watt, executive director of IoD in Scotland, said: “The Scottish Parliament and in particular, Humza Yousaf, the Minister for Europe and International Development should be congratulated on working together to address what is a serious issue for Scottish businesses.  Without skilled workers, Scotland’s capacity for growth would be acutely reduced, and sending talented young people, who have benefited from the highest quality education, away, is nonsensical.  IoD Scotland is proud to have contributed to the development of a coherent and sensible Post Study Work Visa Scheme on behalf of our members.”
IoD submitted written evidence to the select committee, outlining its chief concerns:
  • Although the Scottish economy is growing slower than the rest of the UK, it still requires people with a wide variety of skills to fuel its growth. The demographics in Scotland means that to sustain growth, we must attract migrant workers from the UK, the EU and the rest of the world.  These migrant workers are needed and there is considerable evidence to prove that current growth is being fuelled by EU migration.
  • The current non-EU graduate schemes are tailored for specific skills at both graduate and post graduate levels; the report states that this supply has diminished by 80% since the withdrawal of the last Post Study Work Visa Scheme
  • Scotland has some of the best Universities in the world and yet the current situation denies us access to skilled graduates from the qualified elite from countries around the globe. The majority of whom are from China and the United States
  • Our members tell us that sectors such as health, energy, biosciences and finance face particular problems in recruiting skilled graduate workers.
  • Members note particular frustration that they are encouraged to take non-EU students on placements and then are unable to continue their employment post-graduation.
  • The Tier 2 system is such that most businesses without a professional HR team are effectively excluded from the process. As the report points out this includes 99% of Scottish employers
  • The salary levels required for graduates in the current schemes are set at a UK level, to suit the south east of England – the current recommendation of £30,000 as a starting salary for a graduate is unrealistic in the Scottish labour market.
IoD Scotland had representation on and contributed to both the Post Study Working Group and the Scottish Parliament Cross-party steering group examining this issue.  In addition, members met with the Scottish Minister for Europe and International Development Humza Yousaf to voice their concerns and discuss options and were overwhelmingly in support of the introduction of an upgraded Post Study Work Visa Scheme for Scotland
Howard McKenzie, fellow of the IoD and its Scottish policy lead on migration gave evidence to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee at a session in Aberdeen in November 2015.  He said: “Our members continue to tell us that they are unable to use non-EU graduate labour and that a post study work visa system for Scotland would enable them to use first class graduates and to support their export activity.  Migrant workers, from any source, have and continue to contribute to the health and expansion of Scottish businesses, our jobs depend on it.”
Watt added: “In particular, these issues are a major problem for SMEs, which account for the vast majority of Scottish businesses.  A system that addresses the talent shortfall for those businesses, and is attuned to the different demographic needs of Scotland, is crucial for our country’s future economic success.”

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