If You Can Keep Your Head While All Around Are Losing Theirs...
Author: Jill Whittaker.
In the eighteen days since the citizens of the UK voted to exit Europe there has been much talk about the short, medium and long term effect this decision may or may not have on the economy.
What people believed they were voting for, or indeed against, in many cases was not real in any sense – but it is clear that there will be real impact on our economy. Whatever your position, one thing is certain - we are a resilient Kingdom, a true melting pot of ideas and beliefs that together certainly has the wherewithal to ride out the problems with which we are faced.
Some things remain constant, boom or bust. Our economy is driven by people – people making, people serving, people buying, people selling. Wherever those people come from, without them we have nothing. So, how do we protect British business? By ensuring that there are enough skilled people in the workforce, and being training in the workforce, to provide the products and services that people buy and sell. Last week I was at a trade skills summit and there was much concern over where the staff for the broader hospitality & catering sector will come from if the shutters come down on EU migration. It’s a good question, and not one I believe will be solved by the much quoted Australian points system, for this reason – Governments of all persuasions continue to conflate non-academic craft and service skills, the skills that keep our economy afloat, with “low level” skills. Why? Because they don’t understand that academic skills aren’t the only ones with economic and social value. How many points do you think a professional waiter or bar tender would generate on a government-developed Australian points system? Possibly not enough to allow them to enter the UK.
Whether or not you agree with my assessment of the situation, it’s likely that in the next couple of years it will become more difficult to bring skills form overseas into the UK. What better incentive to invest in skills development today and provide the workforce for the future? There is much speculation about whether the government will introduce the proposed apprenticeship levy in April 2017; pre-Brexit, the Skills Minister himself said that it would be unlikely that the treasury would introduce a new tax in the face of economic uncertainty. The same Minister, this time post-Brexit at the AELP conference on 27th June, said that it is inconceivable that the government would not continue to invest in apprenticeships and that he foresees more investment, not less.
While our elected politicians are running around trying to make sense of the broader political picture, it’s up to UK business to steady the ship. If we don’t do it now we may find ourselves in a dire position when article 50 is finally enacted. Never has there been a stronger case for investing in the skills of our citizens – both for individual businesses and the UK economy as a whole.