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Jobs in the creative industries most affected by skills issues and migrant labour tend to be in higher level occupations than those similarly affected in rest of the UK economy, according to a report from the Creative Industries Policy & Evidence Centre and the Creative Industries Council.

Roles such as programmers and developers in creative computing, architects and architectural technicians, and product, clothing and graphic designers were identified as among the most likely to be the subject of skills issues and held by migrant workers.

These professional roles in the creative industries contrast with the trend in the wider UK workforce where the harder roles to fill are more often described as skilled trades, such as machine operatives, care and leisure workers and customer service staff.

Within the creative industries, skills shortages were most often reported in the creative end of ICT (Information and Communication Technologies), as well as project management and communication skills.

Employers hiring recruitment workers named ICT-related skills and communication expertise - including language skills - as areas where they could not always find sufficient numbers of UK nationals to employ, and hired migrant applicants.

The research was based on a survey conducted between December 2017 and January 2018, which 'piggybacked' on the official Department for Education's UK Employers Skills Survey.

It found that:

  • 42 per cent of creative industries employers, including 73 per cent of those employing more than 100 people, reported a skills issues (either because they could not recruit someone with the right skills or the people doing these jobs did not have the right skills)
  • Creative businesses in Yorkshire and the Humber (66 per cent) and the North West (52 per cent) were more likely to report issues than those in London (40 per cent)
  • About 18 per cent of creative industries businesses employed a non-UK national from the EU
  • Among those businesses employing a worker from the EU, 29 per cent thought their EU migrant workers had skills or talents they had not been able to find from UK nationals. Twenty per cent recruited their EU workers through non-standard processes, suggesting they had actively sought out migrant employees because UK nationals did not have the required skills.

The report argues that a significant minority of creative businesses might have difficulty replacing EU migrant workers with UK nationals if this need arises after Brexit.

It says that even employers of EU migrant workers that did not believe they had specific skills or talents lacking in UK  nationals presumably hired the best person for the role and, if these EU applicants were less available in future, empoylers would either have to accept lower quality candidates or take extra steps to recruit people.

Of those employers that reported employing non-UK workers, 55 per cent were worried about their ability to recuit the people they needed after Brexit.

The research was commisioned by the CIC to provide granular estimates of the migrant labour force and skills gaps and shortages across the creative industries.

Before this, the CIC Technical Working Group had created a Migration and Skills Statistics sub-group in 2017 to identify data gaps in these areas as they related to the creative industries. Some industry bodies that had conducted their own research had found some elements in official data jarred with their own experiences.


More about the Policy and Evidence Centre  (external link)

More on UK creative industries employment