The future of the UK migration is unclear. While those who currently live in the UK have been given a degree of certainty by the Government, creative industries are concerned that Brexit will limit their access to the right talent. The Prime Minister has outlined her vision for a ‘Global Britain’ – but Global Britain needs global talent.
The UK videos games industry is a success story. In recent years, we have produced ground-breaking IP and many successful games. The industry contributes £1.2 billion every year to the UK economy, employs highly skilled people and is export focussed – over 95 per cent of studios export their games. The spread of mobile and tablet devices, the new console generation, the popularity of PC games and the advent of virtual reality and augmented reality means that investment in games is set to continue.
The industry competes on the skills and abilities of its workers. It is the programmers, designers, engineers, artists and producers that create ground-breaking games and allow UK companies to compete globally. The single most important priority for the UK video games industry in the current Brexit negotiations is that we have access to highly-skilled employees from the EU, EEA and beyond.
Currently, EU workers make up 15 per cent of the UK games industry, while 5 per cent come from countries outside the EU. This is a significant proportion considering EU workers make up 6.8 per cent of the UK workforce as a whole. It is welcome that the Government has provided reassurances to EU citizens already living here. The UK and EU are currently negotiating the subject of EU citizens’ rights. We trust that the issue of the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and the rights of UK citizens living in the EU will be settled speedily, amicably and reasonably. Yet in order to grow and thrive as it previously has, the UK video games industry will need to continue to recruit talent on a global level.
In our recent submission to the Migration Advisory Committee, TIGA set out a range of options for a future migration policy: reciprocal freedom of movement rights for workers in the video games industry; a general reciprocal freedom of movement rights for workers with a job offer; the provision of approximately 1,500 work permits per annum for the UK video games industry; the addition of roles (e.g. Games Analyst and Engine Programmer) to the Shortage Occupation List where there is a specific skills shortage so that employers can recruit the employees they need without undue delay; ensuring that any new immigration arrangements are not complex or costly for business; and the introduction of a fast-track visa programme for roles on the Shortage Occupation List. These measures could help to keep the UK open to global talent.
Some argue that Brexit provides an opportunity to nurture home-grown talent – firms will be forced to train UK workers, wages will rise as the labour pool shrinks. However, the video games industry has encouraged domestic talent for years. TIGA itself accredits high quality video game courses and works closely with universities to ensure our graduates can enter the industry with the right skills.
Meanwhile, video games firms make a real effort to train their employees, most of who are UK citizens. 80 per cent of games businesses provide on-the-job training, while 38 per cent provide formal training courses, both in-house and external. It is training and education that allows pay to grow sustainably, rather than a self-imposed labour shortage.
Theresa May has outlined her vision for a ‘Global Britain’. But Global Britain needs global talent. It would be a huge mistake for the Government to limit the video games industry’s ability to recruit the best and brightest workers from around the globe. The industry is well positioned to continue to grow. It is vital that our migration systems does not tie our hands, but rather enables us to thrive, expand and succeed.
Dr Richard Wilson