New scale-up visa misses the mark when attracting tech talent
2 Sept 2022
The government means well – but it has not reckoned with the full potential of remote working. Potential that Distributed is here to deliver.
On 22 August this year, the UK government launched its new Scale-up Worker visa scheme, designed to make it easier for high-growth businesses in Britain to attract talent from around the world.
While this initiative means well, it does not take into account the practical realities of distributed working in today’s market – and the new opportunities it opens up.
This in turn means that it is unlikely to be successful in addressing the challenge of the talent shortage in tech.
We’ll get into why this is below, but first let’s take a look at how the Scale-up Worker visa programme is set to work.
The Scale-up Worker visa scheme
The new initiative by the Home Office will enable high-growth businesses (i.e. flourishing startups) to employ highly skilled scientists, engineers, coders and other workers from overseas by permitting these workers to receive two years’ leave to remain in the UK.
To qualify, a company will need to be able to prove year-on-year growth of 20% or more in either turnover or staff headcount for at least three years, and that it employed a minimum of ten people at the beginning of this three-year period.
The goal of the new visas is to offer faster, less expensive and more streamlined visa sponsorship for growing businesses seeking to attract talent from overseas.
Does it do this in practice?
One key obstacle is that firms will still need a sponsor licence – so instead of removing the need for some time-consuming and resource-draining admin, the scheme just re-arranges it slightly. These licences also mean the sponsoring firm could potentially face sponsor obligations even after the employee in question leaves the UK.
This is the presumably unintended consequence of the visa baking in a new incentive for the skilled worker in question – they will only be tied to the sponsoring firm for the first six months of their time in the UK.
This adds flexibility and options for the worker as they consider their long-term future (under the earlier Skilled Worker visa, they could only change jobs with the permission of the immigration authorities), but could add up to a retention nightmare for companies seeking to retain top talent in today’s enormously tight tech labour market.
There is a better option
There are other issues with the visa scheme – the sky-high requirements to qualify, for example – but there is an over-arching problem that’s central to its very idea.
It’s yesterday’s solution to today’s problem.
Instead of facilitating companies building truly global networks of workers connected by modern collaboration platforms, the visa scheme belongs to a world where you and your employer need to be physically located in the same place.
In short, why spend time and resources getting someone physically in the country – when you can work with them just as effectively remotely, and at a fraction of the cost in time, admin and infrastructure?
We’ll get onto how Distributed can help with this shortly, but let’s briefly consider the scale of the challenge facing the tech sector.
If we expand our scope to the US and the UK, there are currently 1.9 million live vacancies in software development. To meet this demand, there are only 65,000 new developers graduating every year.
Meanwhile, UK employers have even been turning to recruit school-leavers rather than graduates, as job search engine Adzuna reported that there were 100,000 tech vacancies posted on their site every week for the entirety of 2021.
That is an absolutely vast gap between demand and the capacity of the local labour market to meet it, and one that any potential visa programme is unlikely to meet.
To put it bluntly, unless the government wants to build several whole new cities for new tech workers, its Scale-Up Worker visa scheme is not going to conclusively solve any problems.
A more realistic solution is one that opens up access to global talent for UK firms without any needless visa admin or extra costs.
Luckily, the recent explosion in technical capabilities for remote working has meant Distributed’s Elastic Teams offer just that.
How Elastic Teams work
If you can successfully work with someone whose main place of business is their spare room in suburban Britain, there is no reason you can’t do the same with someone overseas – you just need support in finding and paying talent.
Elastic Teams allow firms to recruit, onboard and deploy top talent on demand – and do it with talent anywhere in the world.
Distributed’s proprietary platform automatically connects employers with the team members they need, streamlining the whole process with standardised security, documentation and coding practices.
Crucially, this recruitment pool is both global and remote – meaning you don’t have to worry about sponsoring anybody’s visa, or if they’ll jump ship after six months, or if you go through all the trouble of sponsoring a colleague only for things to not work out.
You can recruit people for individual projects, or simply the individual stages of projects that are going to be more labour-intensive – meaning you do not have to over-commit in recruiting overseas talent that may have a specialism that is only appropriate for one area of your business activity.
This means companies can build a talent pool that they can draw on based on their precise needs at each moment of a project’s life cycle.
So, rather than building a ‘bench’ all inefficiently concentrated in one geographic location, you can cast your net truly worldwide to find the right talent at the right time.
We’re biased of course, but doesn’t this sound like a far more modern way of working – one that reckons with the reality of remote working, the flexibility that both tech workers and employees require, and the full potential of the digital economy?
Or you could spend the next month filling in forms for the Home Office – the choice is yours…