North/South Brain Drain and the Effect of Brexit.
Wednesday, March 28, 2018
What next for the North West’s Digital Industry?
Nigel Farage throwing fish into the River Thames. The big red £350 million bus. David Cameron’s resignation. All of these events will live long in the memory as the United Kingdom makes its way through the minefield of EU negotiations as it looks to leave the union it joined back in 1973 when it was the European Economic Community.
In the build-up to the referendum, jobs and employment prospects were placed front and centre in arguments for both the Leave and Remain campaign. On the one hand, it was said that migrants coming here were taking jobs away from British-born individuals and in a crowded marketplace, some of those arriving on these shores were happy to work for a lower wage. Certain industries, such as the haulage industry are rife with these problems and having exploited cheap migrant labour for years, it will be interesting to see how events unfold.
However, the case was made that those from the EU and further afield are pivotal in maintaining and enhancing the workforce of some of our key industries and establishments. The NHS for example, is reliant on migrant labour and with a 96% drop in EU nurses registering to work in our hospitals, there will certainly be a few worried faces in the NHS hierarchy.
Yet it is not only the NHS who have a large base of EU workers as the expanding technology and digital sector also boast a high percentage of employees from the continent. Although the UK has yet to leave the EU, the culture engendered by the Leave campaign and the subsequent vote has left many of those foreign-born workers feeling uncomfortable.
It begs the question that if there was a similar drop-off in people taking up jobs in digital marketing as there was in the NHS, would the industry still be able to thrive?
As a company based in the North West – Manchester to be specific – we have seen the boom in digital companies that have sprung up around the region and there has been plenty of growth in the sector over the last few years. But in order to maintain the growth and build upon the foundations, a solution needs to be reached to help the industry in a post-Brexit world.
If we no longer see the numbers arriving in the country to work in the industry from the continent, then we need to focus our efforts closer to home. In the recent budget, Phillip Hammond recognised the impact that the digital sector has had and the Chancellor promised greater provision for digital improvements is to be welcomed.
However, not only do we risk losing some of our talented stars to the EU, there is also a significant North-South brain drain taking place which needs to be reversed if the North West and the other regions are to continue to thrive.
The Mayor of the West Midlands recently declared that the biggest challenge facing the region was a ‘lack of digital of skills’ and if you head further north, the picture is equally disappointing with full fibre connectivity hampering progress in the North East.
The upshot is that it all depends on what kind of mix the government want the economy to be post-Brexit. If they want to shift back to manufacturing and primary industries then so be it, but if they want to keep the digital industries alive then they need to step into the breach. The EU brain drain will likely hit everyone, but with the sustained North/South brain drain, where does that leave those in the North? Only with continued investment and a focus on educating the next generation of digital leaders will the industry continue to thrive.
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