Vehicle industry to lose key staff amid Brexit immigration rules

The vehicle and the valeting sector could face staff shortages next year as UK employers will not be able to hire non-UK residents for certain key roles.

The new immigration system will not apply to EU citizens already living in the UK by December 31, 2020.

Car wash assistants, vehicle valeters, parts sales executives, car sales executives, delivery drivers and cleaners are all classed under the lower skilled category by the Home Office immigration system.

Any EU citizens coming to the UK after January 2021 will not qualify to be sponsored by a dealer group, garage or valeting company.

Steve Nash, Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) chief executive, said the independent sector and franchised dealer sector has been recruiting technical roles from the EU to help fill the skills shortage in the UK.

He said: “We have been asked to check and match equivalent skills from talent from the EU in recent years.

“The independent sector had primarily recruited technicians from the EU to fill a skills gap and then the franchised dealer sector in turn has also recruited from those already in the UK,” added Nash.

Nash said that while it will still be possible for UK automotive businesses to recruit for these roles, he does expect the points based immigration system and registering as a sponsor to impede recruitment next year.

Nash continued: “What really saddens me is that apprenticeship recruitment has dropped by 87% during Covid-19 in the UK and so the combination of that and the new immigration system will create further difficulties for the aftersales sector down the line.”

Meanwhile, under the new rules, there will no longer be an eight-year limit on postgraduate studies. This means that UK employers will have a greater chance of being able to hire more highly skilled workers after they have completed their full programme of studies.

When combined with the proposed two-year Graduate visa, international students will now have a clearer route to settlement following 10 years' continuous residence in the United Kingdom, which means that a lower proportion will require sponsorship by employers. This will provide some administrative and cost savings.