How is Brexit harming Northern Ireland’s job market?
15th Dec 2017
Are we heading into trouble? Some would say we are in trouble already.
Brexit, Brexit, Brexit! That’s all you hear these days! And to be honest it’s a topic that I try and stay clear of because we just don’t know where it’s going to take us. What we do know, is that it's politically driven rather that driven by the economy and I’m starting to see signs of its short-term effects on the local economy.
One of these effects I can see presently is the skills crisis at a blue-collar level.
Over the past fifteen to twenty years we have become reliant on the migrant workforce mainly from eastern Europe that has worked in construction engineering food and the hospitality industries.
Since Brexit, last year and sterling weakening the knock-on effect being that working in Northern Ireland is no longer as attractive for the Eastern European workforce. And those that are here several years and sending money back home now starting to look elsewhere or move back home. This combined with the growth of economies in mainland Europe we are now in competition with the likes of Germany etc. to attract workers here and to be honest I don’t think it’s a battle we will win.
We are also in the middle of a “skills mismatch”. Why? Because we all want our kids to go to University. We don’t want our kids to go and train as a welder or work in a food production company. How many young people will graduate over the coming weeks from University and not get a job in what they trained in? And to be honest, could we blame these kids for not wanting to take a job in the local hotel or engineering company after spending years studying and accumulating debt. No, they are going to head off probably to a sunnier climate and sustain careers elsewhere.
I met with a HR Manager with a large manufacturer who told me that degrees are pretty much worthless these days as everyone has one and even if you have a degree in a specific field this company would not necessarily recruit you. This could be because they found better candidates who have the right attitude and are quicker to train to achieve more in a shorter time frame.
How is this going to affect things in the short term?
Well, we can see it already every engineering company is crying out for welders, fabricators and skilled labour. These companies are experiencing growth due to export sales, however with the cost of imports going up and if skilled labour is in demand that cost is also rising. This could lead to companies becoming uncompetitive and less attractive for inward investment.
Well, we are used to political instability and its proven that we can’t rely on our government to get us out of this. I also believe we will have to change the way we think about these jobs in the future. We hear all this talk about robots and artificial intelligence but that another twenty years away at least.
If we talk to our Grandparents about their careers you will get a sense of pride and how they believed in their skill and its importance to society. Maybe we need to get this back.
Maybe, Brexit will force us to change our current thinking and this change will lead us to become more self-sufficient and independent.
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