Migrants' Rights Network

Ditch “low-skilled” label for SME & public sector work post-Brexit – APPG report

The APPG on Migration has recommended the government take a “new approach” to so-called ‘low-skilled work’ after a landmark report found that many roles with British SMEs and the public sector, particularly in the care sector, will be hard to fill after EU freedom of movement ends in the UK.

The report, Brexit: beyond the highly skilled – the needs of other economic stakeholders, examines the impact that ending freedom of movement between the UK and the EU will have on small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) and the public sector in the UK.

Classifying roles as ‘low-skilled’ makes it almost impossible for business and the public sector to recruit overseas workers under the existing points based system (PBS). The inquiry found that the label of ‘low-skilled’ also creates a negative image of the jobs among British workers, discouraging them from applying.

However, the report finds that many so-called ‘low skilled’ roles require a high-degree of technical knowledge and skill. Jobs considered by the government to be ‘low-skilled’ include dental technicians, health and safety officers and air traffic controllers.

The report recommends that the government reconsider this label and undertake a positive public relations exercise improving the image of jobs currently classified as ‘low-skilled’ among British workers. Alongside this, the report calls for a review of the barriers preventing British workers taking up these roles now. It also recommends the government pushes apprenticeships as a tool for boosting the skills of the domestic workforce, across all ages.

Commenting, Kate Green OBE, Labour MP for Stretford and Urmston and co-chair of the APPG, says:

“Leaving the EU is going to bring wholesale change to how Britain manages migration from Europe. It’s important the government designs a system that works for British SMEs and for the people that staff them.

“Doing down valuable SME work by labelling it ‘low-skilled’ is patronising, out of touch and outdated. It risks cutting us off from overseas talent and discourages British workers from applying for crucial jobs that require skill and talent.

“The government should ditch the label. We need a new approach, one which recognises the value these jobs bring to Britain and the new context we’ll be operating in after we leave the EU.”

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