Technology recruiters in the U.K. are grappling with uncertain labor and immigration policies as the country on Friday officially breaks with the European Union.
divorce, which begins a transition period expected to last through the end of the year, comes as U.K. employers face an already tight labor market for technology workers, recruiters and tech industry analysts say.
To cope, many companies are taking a cautious approach.
British software giant
PLC has created a working committee to monitor Brexit developments as they unfold, said
the company’s chief product officer.
“The company will act accordingly with progressions in the plan,” Mr. Goguen said, adding that Micro Focus doesn’t expect potential regulatory changes to “significantly impact” its business.
Some tech startups say uncertainties over visas, work permits and other issues already are chasing skilled workers away.
Andrius Sutas, chief executive and co-founder of AimBrain Solutions Ltd., said job seekers have brought up concerns about Brexit and the U.K.-based artificial intelligence startup’s contingency plans.
“Some of the potential candidates even dropped out of our hiring process, as a U.K. company, when they received competing job offers from an EU entity,” Mr. Sutas said.
The U.K.’s tech startup scene has produced a large AI community including DeepMind, now a subsidiary of
AI startups in the U.K. received about $3.2 billion in venture-capital funding in 2019, an increase of 23% from $2.6 billion in 2018, according to a study released this month by the research firm Dealroom and Tech Nation, an organization that supports U.K. technology entrepreneurs.
A majority of chief information officers at U.K.-based companies plan to hire additional technology workers in the year ahead, either as full-time staff or contractors, according to staffing firm
Demand is especially high for information technology security and management workers, followed by technical IT support, operations and management.
“The businesses we work with are seeing demand for digitalization, greater priority on cybersecurity risks and increased customer expectations,” said
a London-based associate director at Robert Half. All that is adding strain to existing technology teams, he said.
Uncertainties related to hiring didn’t stop venture-capital firms last year from plowing record funds into U.K.-based tech startups. They received $13.2 billion, compared with $9.1 billion in 2018 and $9.3 billion in 2017, according to the Dealroom study.
“There is a very deep bench of talent coming from the outstanding universities in the U.K.,”
a partner at U.S. venture-capital firm Sequoia Capital, said in an email.
Last year, Sequoia invested in Tessian Ltd., a London-based AI startup that focuses on email security. Tessian raised $42 million last year, bringing its total funding since it was founded in 2013 to $60 million.
Recent graduates from U.K. universities such as the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London increasingly want to stay in London instead of moving to Silicon Valley, Mr. Miller added.
Some companies hope their work in AI and other emerging technologies will continue attracting talent despite any Brexit-related challenges.
Brexit is a complex challenge “with many unknowns,” said
founder and chief executive of London-based Cervest Ltd., which focuses on using AI to predict how climate change will affect governments and businesses.
Brexit, however, hasn’t hindered recruiting at Cervest, which has employees from about a dozen countries, Mr. Bassi said in an email. “We continue to attract outstanding scientific and commercial talent,” he said.
By contrast, more than 40% of U.K. employers said it had become more difficult to fill open job vacancies over the past year, with just 5% saying it wasn’t an issue, according to a report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, a human-resources trade group based in London.
The overall number of employers in the U.K.’s information and communications sector expecting to add jobs this year inched down in recent months, though it remained in positive territory, the report said.
In a letter this week to the U.K. government’s Migration Advisory Committee, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development urged officials to develop a flexible immigration system so skilled workers may enter the U.K. along with a temporary visa program that supports all sectors of the economy.
The trade group also proposed minimum salary thresholds to ensure foreign workers aren’t paid less than U.K. workers for comparable jobs.
“The important thing for employers is to get up to speed with the new system fast,” Gerwyn Davies, the group’s senior labor market adviser, said in a statement.
The U.K. government has indicated EU citizens may still live and work in the country, even as their legal status changes.
a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, said current proposals for new immigration requirements favor specialist skills, making it easier for tech job seekers to work in the U.K.
Despite such assurances, net inflows of European workers into the U.K. have declined over the past few years, adding further pressure on employers to find skilled IT employees, recruiters say.
—Sara Castellanos contributed to this article
Write to Angus Loten at email@example.com
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