26 January 2016

Britain must welcome the world's science and engineering talent

AF headshot
The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) has backed the Campaign for Science and Engineering’s (CaSE) call for an immigration policy rethink. Both organisations support the view that a more balanced approach to immigration is essential to maintaining the UK’s position as a leading, global hub for science and engineering.

In a report launched in the House of Lords last week, CaSE argues that current government policy, coupled with anti-immigration rhetoric, places the UK’s future economic and scientific success at risk.

The report, ‘Immigration: Keeping the UK at the heart of global science and engineering’, concludes that complex rules, unclear guidance, and bureaucracy are making immigration increasingly difficult for economically-valuable workers.

IChemE contributed to the report, raising specific concerns over skills shortage in the chemical engineering profession. The Institution also reported on the positive benefits immigration brings.

Alana Collis, IChemE’s policy manager, said immigration is deeply rooted in the UK’s economy: “Many flagship British companies owe their success to migrant workers and rely on international skills and trade. Companies choose to locate their operations in the UK in order to tap into British skills and expertise, but the choice is rarely just about British workers. The free movement of foreign labour is also important – both in terms of skilled engineers in the company but also skilled and unskilled jobs in the supply chain.”

Andrew Furlong, IChemE’s director of communications joined a panel discussion at the launch and emphasised the benefits of a diverse workforce in promoting innovation and global collaboration.

He said: “If Britain is to maintain its status as a world leader in science and engineering, we should welcome foreign talent. IChemE is calling on politicians to do three things. First, stop pandering to the prejudice stirred up by some sections of the press. Second, strip much of the complexity and bureaucracy from our immigration system, and third, bear in mind that major engineering projects take time.

Government must plan for the long term and avoid policy decisions that will compromise Britain’s prosperity in the decades to come.”

Evidence assembled by CaSE reveals the significant economic contribution made by migrant scientists and engineers. However, almost 2,500 applications were rejected in June and July last year, including 66 engineers, according to figures released by the Home Office.

The report concludes with 12 recommendations to strengthen the UK’s position as a leading global hub of science and engineering; including, scrapping the immigration cap for Tier 2 (skilled workers) set out in the Conservative manifesto – currently set at 20,700 visas per year.

My IChemE

IChemE is a registered charity in England & Wales (214379), and a charity registered in Scotland (SC 039661).