Businesses must look beyond national borders to close the skills gap


Global remote working is the key to closing the UK’s tech skills gap.

Many UK industries, including the tech sector, face a significant skills challenge at a time when importing talent into the UK from their nearest neighbor, the EU, has become more difficult.

One in ten UK vacancies are in tech, according to Tech Nation business network, and the lack of skills needed to fulfill these roles is well documented. Research from the Institute of Learning and Work found that less than half of UK businesses say young people entering the workforce have the advanced digital skills they need.

At the same time, the Covid-19 pandemic has unequivocally changed the way we think about the workplace. People have become accustomed to working remotely and companies are much more confident that they can operate effectively in this environment. Tech companies need to harness this more flexible, remote workforce to access the talent they need to grow.

Three-quarters of companies in the Learning and Work survey say a lack of digital skills is hurting their bottom line. To ensure their future profitability, they inevitably have to look beyond national borders to fill this skills gap. The proximity and abundance of tech talent to the EU makes it a vital job market, but Brexit creates complexities associated with the arrival of foreign workers in the UK. Lack of skills and changes in immigration are creating the perfect recipe for disrupting the status quo.

At Velocity Global, we recently conducted a study of 500 British and 500 American technology company leaders which found that almost half (46 per cent) in the UK intended to continue or speed up the recruitment of foreign workers, but to hire them remotely in their own country.

The business conditions of the past 18 months make companies much more comfortable with a fully remote working relationship. Amid the pandemic, some of the world’s largest tech companies have adopted “remote first” policies in perpetuity. Employees can be anywhere or anywhere the company chooses to hire them. Research shows that big tech companies are leading the way. More than a third (34%) of tech companies with 501 to 1,000 employees are more likely to hire remote workers from overseas, while smaller, more agile companies are not far behind with 27 % of companies with 200 to 500 employees; 21 percent for companies with 100 to 199 employees; and 10 per cent for companies with 50 to 99 employees.

The pandemic has given large companies a head start over their SME counterparts with large-scale investments to quickly establish support for a remote workforce. The skills gap is also affecting tech companies and small businesses, but fast-growing tech companies are well positioned to accelerate the value of global remote talent. Small tech companies are leveraging agility to compete with the big players – fewer moving parts often means more maneuverability – and this has to be the case in the competition for global talent, too.

Whether company-wide or in growth mode, a shift to remote workers can remove barriers such as setting up a foreign entity, but global regulations are constantly changing, especially during the pandemic. Companies must keep compliance and flexibility at the forefront of their international remote recruitment plans.

Tapping into talent pools abroad helps fill skills shortages at home and opens up new markets further afield by giving a company a foothold in new territory. Employees now expect jobs that allow them to live anywhere. Incorporating global remote working into the recruiting strategy is a way for tech companies to achieve all of these goals at once, to ensure they have the skills to grow and to offer job offer that responds to the ever increasing demand for flexibility.

Sarah Fern is Human Resources Manager at Global speed

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