With June 23rd drawing ever closer the media has been swallowed up with hypotheses and opinions on how the UK would be effected by an exit result. The majority of the focus has been on the finance and tourism industries as two of the UK’s biggest industries, but what could a ‘Brexit’ mean to the technology industry?
One of the many topics that has failed to attract the attention of the media is the potential impact of a Brexit on the movement of talent and skills. Unfortunately for the UK, a skills gap has already become very apparent, and has continued to grow for close to a decade. Access to skilled EU workers has played a crucial part in maintaining the integrity of a number of industry sectors, including transport and technology. With migration and immigration to the UK being a major discussion point for the ‘leave’ campaigners, many of whom would like to see stricter controls on who can and can’t enter the UK; it can be assumed that the ability to access skilled EU workers will diminish as a result.
As the skills gap is largely controlled through the employment of EU workers a Brexit could exacerbate the problem and has the potential to cause difficulty for a large number of businesses.
In a situation where the growing skills gap can no longer be controlled through bringing in outside help into the UK, i.e. following a Brexit, the number of companies having to outsource work to other countries (often known as offshoring) is likely to increase. When work is offshored any skills that have been gained or improved upon during the course of the project remain in the overseas market, as a result, no new skills enter the local market which widens the skills gap further forcing more companies to look elsewhere for relevant skills. This process has been aptly named The Brain Drain, and could see the UK loose another valuable chunk of its already limited talent.
On the surface the prospect of having no option but to outsource may not sound like the end of the world, after all companies are already outsourcing work, driven from a cost saving perspective, and it doesn’t seem to be a problem.
However, many companies may see the potential for lower cost labour and run headfirst into offshoring without stopping to think. There are a number of downsides to offshoring, for example, the level of management time required to get the desired results can be immense, because when using an offshore business a lot of time must be spent ensuring that the quality levels meet the company’s and, more importantly, end user’s standards. This is often exaggerated by the vast distance barriers. These can be improved with the use of guidelines but language and cultural barriers may still impact the final product.
It may seem, therefore, that the future of the of the UK’s technology industry following a Brexit has the potential to damage the UK tech industry however, there is still a number of successful technology companies in the UK that, like Zircon, have access to important skills and experience. If focus were to move to nurturing these local companies, and the training of budding students could be improved, the effect of a Brexit may not be nearly as impactful as current expectations.
While many aspects of Junes referendum are nothing more than educated guesses and speculation one thing remains certain, no matter the final outcome Zircon will continue to provide their customers with high quality, bespoke software solutions.