National issue, international solution: why you should consider hiring engineers from overseas

5 min read | Paul Gibbens | Article | Talent management Workforce management

National issue

Skills shortages are rife within engineering. In fact, our recent research in partnership with The Engineer magazine shows that 95% of engineering organisations are currently experiencing skills shortages; more than one in five (21%) would go as far as describing these shortages as extreme. In response, organisations are looking to attract top engineering talent and reduce employee attrition. Hiring from overseas could help to close the skills gap within engineering, so why aren’t more organisations doing it?

Why don’t more organisations hire engineers from overseas?

Despite many engineering organisations facing skills shortages, the majority (60%) don’t hire engineers from overseas. The process is commonly perceived to be complex, expensive and time-consuming. In our research in partnership with The Engineer, the main reasons for not hiring engineers from overseas are:

  • Associated costs – 36% of organisations say it’s due to the cost of sponsorship and visas. Relocation packages may also be offered at an additional cost to the company, including paying for removals, insurance, temporary accommodation and travel expenses.
  • Additional paperwork – 31% of organisations don’t hire international engineers because of the paperwork and admin involved. Organisations must apply for a Skilled Worker sponsor licence before they can offer employment to overseas workers. There are necessary checks and paperwork associated with each sponsored worker that must be completed on the government’s Sponsorship Management System (SMS).
  • Lack of resources – 14% of organisations don’t hire engineers from other countries due to a lack of resources to market jobs to overseas workers. 12% of organisations don’t hire overseas engineers because of a lack of resources to support training for these workers.

Sponsorship can be – relatively – simple

There are certainly additional measures to take when hiring from overseas, but the process isn’t as complicated as some may believe. Obtaining a Skilled Worker sponsor licence is a straightforward process for many organisations, especially since most engineering roles are on the shortage occupations list and are therefore afforded more relaxed eligibility criteria. If you’re deemed to be a reputable company with a designated member of staff responsible for sponsored workers, then you shouldn’t have an issue getting a licence.

Smaller firms may be particularly concerned with the costs associated with hiring engineers from overseas. If you’re an organisation with fewer than 50 employees, an annual turnover of £10.2 million or less, or your total assets are worth less than £5.1 million, you’re classified as a ‘small sponsor’ and you’ll pay a much lower licence fee compared to medium or large organisations. While some organisations cover the cost of the Immigration Health Surcharge for overseas employees, the surcharge is technically payable by the individual. Therefore, companies struggling with the additional costs associated with hiring from overseas could refrain from footing this bill.

International hires pose international opportunity

Many organisations are experiencing the negative impacts of skills shortages, including heightened stress, increased workload, low employee morale and high turnover. Being open to hiring engineers from other countries could help your organisation combat prevailing skills shortages through access to underutilised sources of knowledge, experience and ways of thinking.

Innovation stems from diversity: employing engineers from other countries will help your organisation to establish culturally and ethnically diverse teams with a broad range of perspectives. Having diverse engineering teams could lead to enhanced problem-solving, collaboration, engagement, motivation and trust – ultimately having a positive impact on your organisation’s workplace culture and bottom line.

If your organisation is hoping to expand into new markets in the future, having international engineers on the team could prove extremely useful. Engineers from overseas can bring your attention to new markets and opportunities for growth that you may not have previously considered. What’s more, if you hire engineers from countries that you’re interested in expanding into, they can help you overcome language barriers and inform you about cultural norms.

If you’re interested in expanding your search for top engineering talent, speak to our team of specialist recruitment consultants today and find out how we can support your talent management needs.


About this author

Paul Gibbens, National Specialism Director, Engineering, Hays

Paul began his recruitment career in 2005 before joining Hays in November 2019. Paul is an experienced customer-focused director with extensive knowledge of the nuclear, MOD & defence, oil & gas, rail, power generation, petrochemical, chemical, renewable energy, and manufacturing industries.


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