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Shortage Occupation List Review 2018

9 January 2019

FPC responded to the recent call for evidence by the Migration Advisory Committee regarding its review of the Shortage Occupation List.

The Shortage Occupation List comprises occupations and job titles held to be in shortage where it would be sensible to fill through non-EAA migration. Job titles on the SOL are not required to undertake the Resident Labour Market Test or meet the five year salary threshold for settlement.

For this review, MAC adopted a new approach, focusing on specific job titles rather than broader occupations.

MAC also indicated that it felt it was appropriate to get a better understanding of the scale of potential shortages across the whole of the UK labour market and at all skills levels.  This gave us the opportunity to raise concerns about shortages affecting low skill roles across our sector.

In our submission we highlighted the following points:

Skills shortages do not just apply to high skill roles. We believe that the Shortage Occupation List needs to include low skill roles given the immense difficulties being experienced in filling these roles across the fresh produce supply chain currently.

Non-UK nationals from EU Member States and third countries are employed across the industry at different skill levels in a wide range of roles, both temporary and permanent. The level of uncertainty generated by Brexit is causing shortages in availability and retention of EU nationals. This is compounded by fluctuations in the value of sterling making alternative employment in other countries more favourable.

These challenges are exacerbated by low unemployment levels across the UK, and the perception of limited career opportunities making our industry appear unattractive to the younger generation. This is compounded by a lack of information on the wide range of skill sets and roles available within the food and drink industry.

FPC members have undertaken a combination of measures, including use of apprenticeships, direct sourcing in countries overseas, and working with Job Centres, recruitment agencies and labour providers to source both temporary and permanent employees.

FPC members have taken steps to attract UK workers by working with local Job Centres on youth employment programmes, providing personal mentoring, work experience and qualifications. These schemes have had limited to no success in recruiting and retaining employees. Local Job Centres have not been able to continue support for such initiatives due to the lack of candidates in areas of low unemployment.

In the long term there are a number of initiatives to improve the perception of the UK food and drink industry for prospective careers, however, these measures will not provide solutions in the short to medium term.

As a member of the UK Food and Drink Supply Chain Workforce Group led by the Food and Drink Federation we support the submission of evidence provided to MAC by the Food and Drink Federation on behalf of the UK food and drink industry.

Temporary labour is vital for the UK fresh produce industry to maintain sufficient labour throughout the supply chain to process, pack and distribute fresh produce. We welcome the UK Government’s introduction of a two-year pilot Seasonal Workers Scheme as recognition of the issues facing UK horticulture.  However, the limited scope of the scheme and its capped volume of workers from non-EEA countries will not offset the current and anticipated shortages across the supply chain.

The fresh produce industry is vital to the delivery of a sustainable food supply for the UK and contributes significantly to our health and wellbeing.

A flexible future immigration system is required, enabling access to labour across a range of skill levels.  This will enable businesses to manage fluctuations in production levels and provide the confidence to invest in future growth in the UK.

FPC will be carrying more lobbying on the needs of our current and future workforce, participating in the consultation on the White Paper:  ‘The UK’s future skills-based immigration system’.

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