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New graduate visa is not the answer for service sector





Sponsored feature | By Ian Sandison, CEO of Cambridge BID

Ian Sandison, CEO of Cambridge BID
Ian Sandison, CEO of Cambridge BID

The newly announced high potential talent visa scheme is aimed at attracting the world’s top talent to our shores and, by and large, this will be a good thing for the UK. To be fair, it seems largely similar to the pre-Brexit highly skilled migrant scheme.

This though will not solve the current skills crisis in retail hospitality and leisure (RHL) that has some of our top hotels not offering a full dining service, restaurants and pubs not open seven days a week, and some conference venues not taking summer bookings because of the availability of staff.

Data released last week shows the unemployment rate at 3.7 per cent and for the first time ever, and vacancies at 1.3 million exceed those actively looking for work. ‘Actively’ is the key word since it seems during the pandemic more than half a million, mainly older workers, have joined the great resignation and left the workforce.

The RHL sectors are largely unsupported by an education sector that does not provide the essential customer service skills these industries need. I hear a lot about apprenticeship schemes and while these are useful, many small businesses do not have the staff resources to allocate to an apprentice, thus the issue is confounded. What is required is a repositioning in society that working in the RHL sectors offers a great career choice and that science and technology, while also very important, is not for everyone.

We also need to ensure that students are studying for a degree that will ensure they get well paid work. A recent Universities UK report stated there were one million more graduate vacancies than graduates. Part of the issue is when employers assess their hiring needs, they default to saying they need a graduate when far too often they don’t – they just need someone with the right experience.

I wish all these visa holders well, I hope they start new companies here and contribute to our economy, I also hope they can make their own coffee and cake, pull a pint, cut their own hair, cook and serve themselves in a shop since we are running out of people to do these jobs.

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