05 March 2018 | Focus Articles | Guest Author
Brexit is one of the hottest topics in the world right now, especially for those concerned with trade and industry. The engineering sector is one that could actually stand to benefit quite strongly from Brexit, for a number of reasons, and the Royal Academy of Engineering released a fairly positive statement on our future in terms of innovation and industrial strategy in October, after having some time to look at what the main challenges the sector will need to address will be after the referendum result in June.
Leaving the single market
Of course, we now know more about what Brexit will probably look like, now that Theresa May has announced that the UK will be leaving the single market. This does mean that the UK can negotiate new trade deals with partners around the world (including the EU itself), and with engineering contributing 10% of the British economy, with a further 10% estimated in gross added value, engineering will be an important part of what we can offer as a player in the global market. However, as an industry already facing a skills gap, the changes to the freedom of movement for people from EU member states could potentially cause problems in finding and retaining talent and skills.
Attracting skilled people from abroad
While we can bolster the future of engineering in the UK by encouraging young people into the field and educating them, there is no denying that at present, we have a skills shortage within the UK. This means that to keep the sector strong and push towards a good global position in engineering, the UK is going to need to make it easy for employers within the industry to bring in talent from other countries. It is important to note, however, that this has always been the case, even while we are in the EU – we actually need to be able to bring in people from all over the world with relative ease to fill the needs of the industry, and not just European member states.
The post Brexit engineering job market
A skills gap is always in a sense good news for people who are already skilled and looking for good opportunities, as well as for entering into a sector. While bringing in foreign talent needs to be an option, local talent is usually the preference, and so skilled engineers already based in the UK should find that there are increased opportunities as the UK will no longer be able to hire people from the EU as easily as domestic resources. On the flip side, British based engineers will not have the same freedom to take positions in other EU countries such as Germany without going through yet to be determined immigration procedures – good news for the UK industry as they won't have to compete as hard to keep homegrown engineers working here, but perhaps bad news for some individuals who are interested in working in other countries or for specific companies or institutes.
Brexit will pose some great opportunities for the industry, and by extension for UK engineers, and so whether you are an engineer now, studying to become one, or are someone who is interested in the market, these are interesting times to watch the sector.