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Don’t let Brexit become Tech-xit – quality talent will be at stake

Whatever your view on Brexit, we can all agree there are more important issues at stake – our ability to hire and retain quality talent for one – than securing uninterrupted access to cheap flights for stag weekends.
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That’s why Boris Johnson’s latest speech did little to alleviate concern that the government lacks a clear vision about our post-Brexit trading relationships. Because Britain is a world leader in the digital industries, which create exactly the kind of high-value jobs that all politicians agree we should aspire to.

The tech sector accounts for ten per cent of our total employment and contributes nearly a quarter of our total exports – and our ability to attract quality talent from across the world is key to that success.

At my agency, Zone, we employ 250 people from over 30 countries, both within and outside of the European Union. That pattern is reflected across the sector – one in five workers in the UK’s tech industry are foreign born.

Access to quality talent is the key challenge facing businesses in the tech sector. The BIMA community in London represents businesses of all shapes and sizes, including agencies, consultancies, brands and startups. We’re all competing for the same talent – the smart, ambitious people with skills in development, data and design; the brightest minds who are pushing the boundaries in AI, machine learning and user experience.

Quality talent is a key theme for BIMA. We are working hard to foster the next generation of talent in the UK, working with schools and universities, supporting apprentices, arranging mentors and striving to make the sector a more diverse and inclusive place to work.

But it’s unrealistic to expect such efforts to meet the immediate demand for skills. We need to continue to attract talent from across the world. And that’s not just about visas and trade deals – there’s also a perception issue. We’re competing with people who can choose to live in Berlin or Barcelona; or to take a role in Singapore or Silicon Valley.

The diversity of our cities and the vibrancy of our culture are as important as the finer details of our immigration policy. Anything that makes the UK a less attractive place to live and work is damaging to the success of our industry.

It’s easy to characterise the digital community as part of the metropolitan elite – a self-satisfied group of hipsters congregating around the Old Street roundabout in east London. But the numbers tell a different story.

The tech sector employs more than three million people. BIMA is the British Interactive Media Association, and our vibrant communities in the south, north west and Scotland reflect the importance of the sector at a national level. And we represent the interests of our members in a world that is being shaped by global giants.

The innovations coming from California and China will continue to disrupt businesses in the UK, Brexit or no Brexit. The UK is well placed to help companies and customers adapt to this disruption. But the talent that we need to continue with that success is global too.

Jon Davie is chair of BIMA London and CCO at Zone


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Today’s professional world is characterised by political instability and economic uncertainty. Everyday we hear about the challenges organisations are facing when it comes to finding, hiring and retaining talent.

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