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Hot topic: skilled workers migration cap, part two

After the government’s immigration cap for non-EU skilled workers was hit for the first time in June there have been proposals to raise the qualifying salary thresholds for migrants, to introduce a time limit on declared skill shortage areas and to create a skills levy on visas to boost funding for apprenticeships. Is this good news for British workers? Or is it bad news for the UK skills shortage?

HR magazine asked two experts for their opinions.

Kevin Green, chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), writes:

"The UK has a skills crisis. Our data shows most businesses have limited capacity to expand because they can’t find the talented people they need. Across the UK employers are looking for more engineers, programmers, accountants and nurses. This is already holding back growth and the situation is being made worse by immigration policy.

Despite the clear need for more talent, the last coalition government introduced a cap on the amount of skilled migrants from outside Europe. In June the cap was reached, so thousands of workers with the skills we need were turned away.

And the government is considering measures that will make the situation worse. The Migration Advisory Committee is likely to propose measures like increasing salary thresholds for some occupations; raising the minimum salary level that migrants would have to be paid in order to be considered for sponsorship; limiting the length of time occupations can be classed as having ‘shortages’; and introducing a ‘skills levy’.

We recognise vocational qualifications and careers advice must be improved. However, this investment will take time to implement and our businesses need skilled people now. Our nation’s future prosperity will be constrained by a lack of talent.

A sensible immigration system is needed to provide an interim solution. The government should: reinstate the two-year post-study work visa for STEM graduates; expand the Shortage Occupation List; implement a streamlined, low-fee Tier 2 visa application process for SMEs.

The government must fix the immigration system to enable UK businesses to recruit global talent. This talent will accelerate economic growth and create jobs for British workers."

Read the first part of this Hot Topic here.