The Brexit announcement of a few months ago has been driven by both International and local national changes in the regulation of employment, the desire for a single market for trading and free movement and wider social and political changes. The recent Japanese government report to the UK and EU regarding Brexit is illustrative of the concerns raised at the G20 conference and the wider issues of market investment and a stable competitive workforce. Other reports of impact on employment such as the Ford motor company reducing investment in the UK Bridgend plant by nearly half from £180million to £100 million may on the face of it be a Brexit impact on confidence but is also reflection of the mega trends in moves towards alternative electric drive cars and the patterns of automation we are starting to see impact the productivity and future jobs and skills needed in the future.
We can perhaps unpack the Brexit implications on UK IT Skills in three areas:
Bigger digital IT Skills gap?
Firstly, the rebalancing of free movement of immigration may impact availability of skilled IT workers who may seek employment outside the UK. Most commentary on resource impacts are in the labor force in hotels, Health service and Farming; however other aspects by sector notably the Financial Services , Engineering and Medical Sectors for example that require complex information systems development may suffer from Head office relocations from the UK or in the availability of additional skills. This is difficult to predict as IT skills are typically higher wages and often collaborative in nature either from collaborative teleworking to international travel nature of systems development and data centers that spread across national boundaries. This means that IT skills are already working this way, however, the problems like the Science and Academic research and teaching community that works in this way will have to deal with EU projects and investment that may preclude or create difficulties for UK and Non-UK projects integration.
How should IT hiring and the issue of UK and Non-UK IT jobs be considered?
This leads to a second impact that relates the size of the company and degree of national and international market sales that need staff who are either UK or EU based.
The rise of Digitization is manifest across many industries and is driving new Skills demands in Big Data analytics, Cloud Computing, Cyber Security, Block chain, Machine learning and Automation and Internet of Things and new marketing and Customer Automation and Experience design. Several HR consultancies and new proxy resourcing models are also impacted by the transform job market using crowd sourcing, blending learning, uberization and "jobing" market that is seeing new variable staffing models and ways of knowledge collaboration, hackathons to open source design and development redefining IT Transformation and jobs. The core architecting, project management and IT strategy remain but innovation and investment in changing the mix and nature of IT departments inside and outside the organization irrespective of the Brexit change. The issue is how the Business Model will work after Brexit, how companies will need to position their UK nationals and International workforces will be a strategic planning issue.
What's the bigger picture?
Little information apart from the example of the Japanese concerns illustrate a way forward, the political rhetoric of "Brexit means Brexit" is at best contradictory in wanting political control immigration but still have access to the single market in EU commercial terms that is predicated on the fact that it has free moment and trading rules to enable this. The current struggle in the Government needs to be defined in a reality of people's aspirations and futures for the current workforce and the generation of children to come.
The UK GDP and economy have over 50% trade with the EU block currently and all that can be forecast is the need for IT systems to perhaps invest in Globalized market reach for free trade deals to grow the UK plc into a bigger player regardless of the Brexit decisions to follow. This means IT skills in international platforms, stronger emphasis on innovation and creative competitive world class IT will be ever more essential. As with the recent Microsoft UK cloud data centers now installed in three sites, the commercial dimension will continue as companies seek to trade with the UK and wider markets. The Digital Single Market and the rules for Tax, Privacy and consent will be treated as any other market trading rules and I expect these to be followed by UK trading partners. The EU with its 27 remaining member states have the H200 Euro 80 Billion fund for investment but by their own reports have struggled to integrate industry and Government partnerships int a multi-EU member stage IT initiatives to build European IT companies able to compete and take on the most US giants of cloud computing and search engines. The Asian markets are accelerating in IT skills and add increased complexity in an increasingly international markets world whether political nationalism seems more at odds with the realities of integrated digital economies and how they technically and commercially work. The rise of automation and productivity changes will mean Nations needing to shift their IT skills mix to competitive in this way and the wider issue of how IT and non-IT jobs and job creation, job destruction may follow. The role of IT skills will be central to opportunities for the UK plc to potentially build world class bigger IT companies not necessarily hindered perhaps by EU red tape is one perspective.
The likes of ARM Holdings, Jaguar Land Rover , Rolls Royce, Micro Focus+HP Enterprise and many other companies regardless of their mergers and acquisition cycles all illustrate the world-class companies and the heritage of the UK and its natural political, infrastructure and societal stabilities are real capability bases to build the new IT and digital economy of the future. Whether this is a Swiss, Swedish or Finish , Israel commercial market and national technology style models is not the issue, when looked at in the context of the Australian, India and China models and the continued US dominance in the IT market are reflective of the changes in how national governments are investing IT as a strategic national identity from smart cities, connected driverless transport to new innovative startup and job creation. The unpicking or unravelling of the EU - UK relationship is more than political but will also result in IT skills and market transformation opportunities and challenges that may enable more IT consulting and outsourcing services and more interestingly, new IT markets and urgency for a Brexit strategy.