The media tends to paint a negative picture – but the migration of skilled
workers brings considerable economic benefits.
According to a report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research,
there are around 715,000 highly-skilled migrants in the UK. The CEBR forecasts
they will directly produce over £36bn-worth of output this year, but their total
economic impact will be around £59bn.
The number of highly-skilled migrants entering the UK every year has more
than doubled in 10 years, with the 15 core European Union countries accounting
for the vast majority, followed closely by Asia and then Africa. And while
healthcare and software professionals are in greatest demand, the number of
business and finance experts is climbing steadily.
But rather than snatching our houses and jobs from under our noses,
highly-skilled migrants provide an invaluable service, plugging skills gaps in a
variety of sectors and helping us combat a labour shortage that could compromise
our international competitiveness.
The migration of skilled workers is a global issue and the UK can benefit
because of its flexible approach to immigration. But the cross-border skills
flow needs to be two-way, and our own professional bodies must ensure they are
equipping staff with skills that allow them to compete in global marketplace.
In accountancy, requiring at least one foreign language at graduate entry
level might be a good starting point, with the opportunity to develop linguistic
fluency during training. A foreign placement could also prove invaluable.
I spent my formative years in Venezuela, Northern Ireland and South Africa as
well as England, and there is no doubt that experiencing those different
countries and cultures broadened my perspective and understanding and improved
my communication and relationship-building skills. In the early years of the
21st century these ‘soft’ skills are at a premium but aren’t, traditionally, the
strong suit of accountants.
Gaining more of an international perspective will improve accountants’
employment prospects. Positively encouraging them to do so could help the
profession compete for graduate talent in an increasingly competitive
marketplace. Maybe it’s time for a new strapline: ‘Join the accountancy
profession: see the world.’
Richard Ashcroft is group FD of Harvey Nash
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