Britain facing brain drain post-Brexit
One of the most common complaints I hear from executives at the various automotive manufacturers in the UK is that they can’t find enough qualified, highly-skilled people. This, by the way, is not unique to the British automotive industry; I hear the same story from the United States. The difference is, of course, that the US, whilst having its own set of problems - which would you prefer, living in Silicon Valley or freezing Detroit? - is not facing Brexit.
A recent report from the business advisory firm Deloitte warns that up to a third of non-British workers in the UK, that’s around 1.2 million people, could leave the country over the next five years. Okay, they’re not all going to be the skilled people the automotive industry so craves, but a certain percentage will be. The Deloitte report highlights the suggestion that highly-skilled workers from EU countries were the most likely to consider leaving the UK before 2022 and that 70% of them warned it would be difficult for a UK national to replace them in their role. It also suggested that UK workers needed to be “up-skilled” - what a horrible expression - and that better utilisation of automation was required if the UK’s rather poor productivity was to be raised to something approaching EU levels.
So what’s the problem with our UK nationals? Is it the fact that it is easier to get accepted by British universities today than it was thirty or forty years ago? That is, of course, if you don’t mind being saddled with a debt you may never be able to repay. Have our educational establishments become so ‘dumbed-down’ that they just aren’t producing young people with the requisite skill sets that industry needs? Is the automotive industry so unattractive as a career choice? I, for one, don’t accept that. Other industries are facing the same skills shortages.
We know that there is an alarming dearth of mathematics and science teachers in our secondary schools. If teachers who are not really qualified to teach these subjects are being pressed into doing so is it any wonder that young people are not finding themselves attracted to them? Whatever the reasons, this is a challenge to which the government must rise. In a post-Brexit world, we cannot allow ourselves to lag even further behind the rest of Europe. Our future may depend on it.
Simon Duval Smith
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