Skilled migrant workers: HR directors in London and the South East face challenge from China and India for talented staff

China and India may force HR managers in London and the South East to compete for talented staff as the booming economies seek to plug skills gaps, research has found.

The ‘Pole-to-Pole’ report, commissioned by the Manufacturing Advisory Service South East, also warned employers that they cannot rely on migrant workers in the long term, and must seek “home-grown solutions”.

“There is an increased focus on innovation and quality within these regions – China in particular is forecast to require an extra 70,000 skilled business leaders by 2017,” said Michael Hall, senior information and research officer at EEF South.

“This situation could impact on UK employers in the medium term and make the current skills shortage even more acute.”

Almost two out of every three technology, engineering and manufacturing companies in the South East have recruited from the new EU accession states, which include Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Records show the migration from the EU to the UK is slowing, down 9% on 2006. Additionally, London is rapidly losing out as a destination – many are travelling further north and to Scotland because of the lower cost of living compared with other regions.

“Employers will increasingly need to recognise the potential value of apprenticeship schemes and the efforts that further education and higher education institutions are making to improve engineering and technical skills,” said Hall.

“There are some encouraging signs – for example the student numbers on science, technology and engineering courses are increasing, but there will likely be medium term recruitment difficulties. That said, we do need to invest in a sustainable approach to high level skills that does not rely as heavily on migration.”

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