UK work permit policy 'hitting technology recruitment'

04 Sep 2013 | Posted by Carl Thomas

The coalition government's tough approach to Tier 2 work permits and UK visas is having a detrimental impact on the technology sector.

This is the view expressed by a number of startup companies and entrepreneurs working in the sector. Talking to Computer Weekly, various chief executives flagged up the problems with restrictions to talent when it comes to hiring.

Alastair Paterson, chief executive of startup company Digital Shadows, told the publication: “There's a lot of competition and there's not enough good people. We need to be attracting the best and the brightest from around the world.”

He added: “There’s a huge skills shortage in tech and startups really struggle because we can’t afford the wages that the corporates can pay their employees. There’s a shortage in an already limited pool - even in London - that everyone’s competing for.”

Ali Ahmen, chief executive of another startup, Lutebox, confirmed that he had experienced related problems with his business. Although he managed to get hold of an entrepreneur visa for the UK, his co-founder has been unable to join him in the country, forcing the pair to make important business decisions over the phone.

There is some dispute over the best way of solving the skills shortage, with some calling for the focus to be put on improving the education system in Britain to encourage young people already in the country to fill roles in the technology arena. However, others are keen to improve the UK's image as a competitive business destination by addressing the UK work permit system and allowing companies to access international talent.

One of the key problems with access to overseas skilled workers is that startups just don't have the resources required to go through the immigration and visa application process. Working with an immigration lawyer can help to some extent, but a growing number of voices are calling for the system to be reviewed to ensure that it isn't limiting Britain's innovative businesses.