New research reveals that on 1st February 2023, UK searches for ‘skilled worker visa’ – the type of visa required for employers to recruit non-UK resident workers – hits highest rate, just after the three year anniversary of the implementation of Brexit.
According to Google Trends data, ‘skilled worker visa’ hit a score of 100 – the first time it has ever done so. This is an increase of over 156% since January 2022, and comes as 78% of UK companies reported talent shortages and hiring difficulties at the end of last year.
As the Government reigns in its spending to ‘level up’ Britain, intended to create more UK jobs and boost the economy, British businesses have been looking abroad to fill the increasing skills gap. This has mainly been created by Brexit, it’s estimated to have caused a shortfall of 330,000 workers, and the ‘Great Resignation’ (an ongoing trend of mass employee quitting) which has impacted an estimated 85% of UK businesses.
Other factors include older people leaving the workforce earlier, increasing by 1.3% in the past year, and more young people entering university rather than the workforce, going from 43.1% to 44.4% in 2020/21. Additionally, rapid technological advancement post-COVID has also widened the gap between digital roles being advertised and the current workforce availability.
Startups.co.uk senior writer and researcher Helena Young commented: “The skills gap poses a real threat to growth for today’s SMEs. The resulting hiring crisis has created major staffing issues for firms at a time when they are already being heckled by rising energy costs, shrinking consumer spending, and insufficient government aid. Now, the Google Trends data suggests businesses are progressively taking matters into their own hands in an attempt to avoid the detrimental effects of making the wrong hire.
With recent research stating that 74% of UK firms don’t feel ready for the future and 1 in 5 cited the skills gap as their biggest blocker to progress in 2023, it’s clear that the government must do more to support UK small businesses.”
The Skilled Worker Visa is the easiest way for an employer to sponsor a new foreign job hire for long-term employment. With this visa, any candidate who meets the requirements for the UK’s points-based immigration system can work in the UK. They can stay for up to five years before applying for indefinite leave to remain. Employers applying for a sponsor licence will need to pay an upfront fee of £364 for the first 12 months, plus £182 for each additional six months.
Helena Young continues that there are other ways to help plug the skills gap: “While the global talent pool is certainly a lucrative source to tap into, the above fees show it is expensive to sponsor a foreign worker. Investing in their existing workforce will help companies to reduce labour costs through avoiding recruitment and onboarding fees. A few suggestions include:
- Digital upskilling – This can be a more affordable talent-finding method than hiring from abroad. It involves investing in learning and development programs to help employees ramp up their expertise.
- Apprenticeship schemes – Whilst more of a long-term solution, apprenticeship schemes are a cost-efficient way to invest in the future of the business, and would stop hiring managers needing to look far away from home for their newest recruit.
- Outsourcing to freelancers – If you’re hiring for specialist tech roles like software engineers, another option is to tap into the global freelancer network to hire short-term project team members who can work from abroad, avoiding the need for expensive visas.
- Modify your recruitment to target over 50s – with 3.6 million people aged between 50 and 64 currently being “economically inactive” in the UK, hiring over 50s is an easy way to increase the number of high-calibre applicants for available roles.”
For more recruitment insights and advice, please see the Startups.co.uk expert hiring guides.
- All the search data images used can be accessed on this Google Drive, alongside licensed stock imagery that’s available for use.
- Here are the Trends scoring definitions according to Google: ‘Interest over time: Numbers represent search interest relative to the highest point on the chart for the given region and time. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term. A value of 50 means that the term is half as popular. A score of 0 means that there was not enough data for this term.’
Reseach from Startups