According to a solicitor specialising in immigration and employment law, Alice Williams, if the proposals outlined for the tier 2 work permit in December's white papers go ahead, this could cause serious problems for engineers. Currently, employers are facing significant issues trying to fill vacancies in the engineering industry. Changes to the UK work permit would mean that it would become even more difficult for business leaders to find low-skilled workers from overseas.
According to Williams, the restrictions that Brexit will bring are significant when considering the fact that engineering roles already account for more than 50% of the roles listed on the shortage occupation list. The positions most in need of additional talent include process engineers, safety engineers, and chemical engineers. A skills-based approach - such as the one taken towards the UK work permit in the new whitepaper, could be a serious threat to the sector going forward.
In an article for the Chemical Engineer Website, Williams noted that the issue is particularly worrying when looking at the figures present for the current state of engineering employment. Studies have found that the UK faces a potential gap of around 22,000 engineers needed to keep the workforce afloat each year. Alice Williams also outlined that there are many roles that aren't directly in engineering that require some basic engineering skills too.
Unfortunately, it looks like overseas engineers after Brexit will only have the opportunity to pursue the tier 2 work permit.
However, in order qualify for this UK work permit, they will need to be able to earn a minimum of £30,000 per year. While the whitepaper published in December suggests that it may be possible to relax the threshold in the future, it is still present for now. The minimum threshold would make it very difficult for the UK to provide enough UK visas to fill the talent gap that is appearing in the engineering industry.