June 22, 2001
2:07 PM   Subscribe

Staff shortages are rife in the UK. University staff, midwives, teachers, police, pretty much every profession (especially unskilled).
In nearly every shop or workplace I've walked past in the past few weeks I've seen 'Staff Wanted' signs galore. Too many jobs, not enough workers. With the lowest unemployment rate in 20 years, and average pay rises of 5% per year, is there any hope of filling these positions anytime soon?
posted by wackybrit (22 comments total)
Even better, in rural Scotland they're practically begging asylum seekers to come because there's too much work, and unemployment is miniscule at 3%. Economic slowdown my ass :-)
posted by wackybrit at 2:12 PM on June 22, 2001

(this could be the solution to the economic slowdown in the bay area; if only 30% of us move to the UK, all of us will have a better life.) - rcb
posted by rebeccablood at 2:16 PM on June 22, 2001

How hard is it for foreigners to get working papers now? Used to be very hard indeed.
posted by jfuller at 2:16 PM on June 22, 2001

> "Areas like Lochaber have unemployment down to 3%
> and they badly need people to come and do the work. In
> Orkney and Shetland it's the same."

What kind of work goes on there these days? Orkney was apparently hot stuff when the neolithic folks were building Skara Brae. But today? Should you bring your Solaris cert or your pitchfork and milking bucket or your kayak and seal spear? P.S. I'm a Macgregor on my mother's side. Has the ban been lifted yet?
posted by jfuller at 2:30 PM on June 22, 2001

Immigration will keep the UK strong. However the key to immigration is to make foreigners feel wanted and needed, to allow them to retain their original cultures, but inspire them to accept English culture as well-- not because its rammed down their throats, but because it's something worth having. We should remember that people come to this country for work, but the work shouldn't define the country, the values and culture that have made commerce flourish here should be stressed.
posted by FPN at 2:36 PM on June 22, 2001

The U.K. right now seems like the U.S. circa 1998.
posted by waxpancake at 2:57 PM on June 22, 2001

Then again, I really don't know much about the situation. So take my opinions with a grain of salt.
posted by waxpancake at 2:59 PM on June 22, 2001

A BBC summary of the skills shortage.

One problem: for some people, it's actually worth the rigmarole of emigrating from the UK. After all, regulations such as IR35 make it attractive for British IT contractors to work elsewhere in the EU. Academic salaries and research grants are only now reaching a level to compete with the US; doctors, nurses and teachers are still underpaid. For a government which talks up the need to create a "high-skill economy", it's taking quite a while to stop the brain-drain. (At least the Scottish Executive is a step ahead of the English here: many teachers are actually moving north of the border for the incentive packages.)

Since immigrants to the UK -- especially the 'asylum seekers' so reviled by the middle-market tabloids -- tend to be either better qualified than the natives, or alternatively more prepared to do unskilled work, we ought to be making the most of their skills: particularly those who can teach and train up others. But for once, I think the Tories had it right: spending money to recruit people from abroad, as Barbara Roche proposed earlier this year, seems a little silly when you could be using it in fairly concrete ways to keep people from leaving.
posted by holgate at 3:02 PM on June 22, 2001

FPN: You make me feel all aglow when you write stuff like that.
posted by allaboutgeorge at 3:07 PM on June 22, 2001

I would emmigrate to the UK in a heartbeat... I wonder how one would start? Suggestions?
posted by silusGROK at 3:44 PM on June 22, 2001

Take our laid off dot-commers -- PLEASE!

I can't wait for my rent to go down.
posted by robbie01 at 4:23 PM on June 22, 2001

Agreed with Vis10n. I have long dreamt of spending some meaningful amount of time experiencing the UK (i.e. not just a week-long vacation). But I've always been told that British law is pretty clear on the matter: If you're an American, you don't get to come in unless you're already rich, and thus won't take a job or use any government services whatsoever (someone like, say, Madonna), or who is an "artist," the definition of which is to be determined by some bureaucrat, who will generally only let you be considered one if you're already famous and are thus already in demand for being yourself and won't take any artisty jobs away from Britons (someone like, say, Madonna).

Is there any real chance of these laws changing? I would enjoy being a teacher over there for a year or two, maybe even longer ... I would enjoy doing almost anything over there for a year or two, as long as I didn't have to spend every waking moment looking over my shoulder for the Unwanted American Cops.
posted by aaron at 4:30 PM on June 22, 2001

I'd imagine that if you're qualified to be a teacher (or even partly qualified) then you'd be able to negotiate entry in the UK right now. Headteachers are saying that another 40,000 teachers are needed to make things right.. and with unemployment as it is, they're going as far afield as South Africa and Russia to find recruits.

I'd seriously suggest you get in touch with the relevant education authorities, as well as specific schools, as there's a high chance that you could 'get in'.

That said, salaries for teachers in the UK aren't excellent. I believe the average primary or secondary school teacher starts at about £18k ($26k) per year. However, private schools are also short of teachers.. and their salaries are much better.

It's simple. Businesses have money to pay good salaries. Government social schemes do not. Doctors are learning that already.
posted by wackybrit at 4:41 PM on June 22, 2001

Aaron: By the way.. your country's laws are very similar. It's nigh-on impossible to get into your country for an extended period of time unless you a) marry someone b) have a degree c) are a celebrity or religious icon or d) are willing to 'invest' $500,000 into a project or business there.
posted by wackybrit at 4:45 PM on June 22, 2001

I believe the average primary or secondary school teacher starts at about £18k ($26k) per year.

Less than that: closer to £15-16k out of London, according to my friends in finishing their first year. (This after three years getting a degree from Oxford, and a year on the PGCE.) And though you'll get £18k in London, that isn't really that great given the rental market. No wonder people go into accountancy.

My guess is that immigration regulations will change fairly drastically in the near future. But gaining a work permit isn't as hopeless as some people make out, especially if you come in on a non-immigrant visa. There's a decent summary of the options here. Things are less favourable in some respects than they were a couple of years ago, simply because a lot of the dot-coms and web shops that had offices on both sides of the Atlantic and were swapping staff across have either consolidated in one place or gone to the wall. But there are definite options, especially if you're a teacher, researcher or journalist and can get a medium-term contract which pays into a US account. Look to exchange programmes, if they exist in your field.

Alternatively, and you didn't hear this from me: if you can get someone to pay you for "American" work while you're away -- ie if you're able to telecommute -- there's nothing to stop you arriving at Heathrow, saying that you're there for two weeks, and staying for the six months that you'll be allowed on your tourist visa stamp. And rumours abound that there are plenty of shady employers that will pay you cash-in-hand for casual work, though I couldn't possibly comment.

[ There's an irony here, since I'm likely to be applying for a non-immigrant visa for the US pretty soon. But I have my girlfriend to blame for that ;) ]
posted by holgate at 5:25 PM on June 22, 2001

there's nothing to stop you arriving at Heathrow, saying that you're there for two weeks, and staying for the six months that you'll be allowed on your tourist visa stamp.

You're right, holgate. However, there's no need to lie about the length of time you'll be in the country. You are allowed to stay up to X months (I thought it was 3) as a tourist anyway. You just claim it's a long 'vacation'.
posted by wackybrit at 7:11 PM on June 22, 2001

Wackybrit, you might be interested to know that the US permits more legal immigration each year than every other nation on earth combined. With our birth rate as low as it is, this is the only thing which keeps our economy from collapsing. However, even with the extremely large amounts which are permitted, there are even more who want to come, so from the outside it can seem as if it is very hard to come over to live.

It seems to me that what you're describing isn't really a shortage of skilled labor; after all, the UK has one of the best university systems on earth. The problem you are facing is directly the result of brain-drain, and the only real solution is going to be to compete for the talent, with real money and other benefits. Like it or not, you'll have to pay competitive wages to valuable people if you want to keep them. The US has been doing that for a long time, and in fact we've been draining skilled labor from all over the world for the last fifty years. In some senses it is a real tragedy, especially when we drain countries like Brazil and India, but in another sense it is unavoidable. Trained people are rare and valuable and like any other commodity they're going to be subject to a bidding war. (Them as has, gets.)
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:45 PM on June 22, 2001

i wonder if you have to be certified to teach at a private school -- here in new mexico, you don't have to pass a board to teach, say, gym or art at a private instituion. i so don't care if it's only $26k/year. that's more than six times what i made last year.
posted by sugarfish at 9:03 PM on June 22, 2001

"relevant education authorities"

A triple oxymoron, people! Let's gim 'em a hand!!!
posted by fooljay at 12:35 AM on June 23, 2001

True, Steven, though it's a degree harder for people from Great Britain to enter the US on an immigrant visa, compared to the rest of the world. For obvious reasons, we don't get allocated places in the "diversity lottery" (although those from Northern Ireland do, which strikes me as bizarre). So the categories left open to us are those tied to desirable skills, qualifications and experience, or marriage-based: for the US, it's not really too much of a gamble.

wackybrit: arrive in the UK looking like you can't afford to take three months off, and passport control might get a little suspicious.
posted by holgate at 4:43 AM on June 23, 2001

The Irish (including those from Northern Ireland) get a buy because Senator Edward Kennedy got a special allocation passed for them. Still, it's even hard for the Irish. I used to work with two of them, and one of them had to fight his way through the crap to get his visa, and he bitched about how tough it was.

The other guy didn't have a problem. When his mother was near term, his parents took a vacation in Cleveland (God knows why), where he was born. Then they returned to Ireland, where he grew up. When he got out of college, he decided he wanted to come to the US, so he went to the US consolate, produced his birth certificate and appropriate identification, and they issued him a US passport. He's just as much a citizen of the US as I am, because of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:17 AM on June 23, 2001

So...uh...does this all mean that someone might actually want to...employ me?
posted by davidgentle at 5:33 PM on June 23, 2001

« Older Learn sign language.   |   "My body has learned that it can fly." Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments