Job applications from the EU have slowed since last year, with 17% of manufacturing companies seeing a drop in applications from European citizens, according to Navigating Brexit: The Migration Minefield, a report by manufacturing organisation EEF and law firm Squire Patton Boggs.
A further 13% of manufacturers have reported an increase in EU workers leaving their businesses.
The report called on the government to move swiftly to give companies and their workforces increased clarity over the future of EU citizens working in the UK.
Proper guidance for EU workers seeking settled status could help to mitigate this problem, the report suggested. Four in 10 (39%) manufacturers said they needed support in understanding how to help EU employees gain residency or settled status, and 68% said they wanted guidance on how changes after March 2019 will affect employers and their EU employees.
Tim Thomas, director of employment and skills policy at EEF, said: “Skills shortages are endemic in manufacturing and engineering, and companies are becoming increasingly concerned about their ability to access the skills they need post-Brexit.
"While the slump in job applications from the EU has slowed, there is still much to be done to make sure UK businesses are still able to attract the very best talent from Europe over the coming months as we proceed towards our exit from the EU, as well as retaining that talent after Britain leaves the EU.”
More encouragingly, the report revealed that companies are endeavouring to retain older workers with specialist skills in an attempt to tackle skills shortages. It found that 16% have implemented or are currently implementing such policies.
Nearly half (47%) are also increasing training for all existing employees, with 37% launching or expanding apprenticeship and graduate recruitment programmes. Improving pay and benefits packages was the route taken by 20%, and 21% are accelerating plans for automating parts of their business.
The report also warned that sending workers to Europe for short trips will become more complex post-Brexit.
A quarter (24%) of companies polled currently post workers for servicing and repair as part of ongoing contracts with customers across Europe, and more than half (52%) send employees to Europe for sales and marketing purposes.