I recently gave a Brexit Briefing at Baker McKenzie for some of their Japanese clients, to give them: a deeper understanding of the context of the Brexit vote, a fresh insight into the mentality of British people and a chance to discuss some of the ensuing impacts of the current political decisions being taken on training and skills.
Using statistical analysis, I outlined how regional underinvestment and a culture of centralised business decision-making has resulted in patchy prosperity across the UK. This was one of the main drivers for the frustrated Brexit vote, which was highest in the areas where productivity was at its lowest. I also spoke about how the rhetorical nature of British politics had led to an out-of-touch attitude regarding these frustrations amongst the political elite alongside a campaign fought on rhetoric and intellectual word-play that was persuasive, emotive and channelled this frustration into an anti-migrant mentality (even though the areas that voted Leave had some of the lowest levels of immigration). The result caught many of those in power by surprise, including the Japanese business community, who had been largely assured it wouldn’t happen, couldn’t understand the nature of the decision and were disappointed by the result in areas such as the NE where Japanese companies had contributed immensely to job creation education and training. To explain this further, I looked at cultural differences both between the Japanese and the British from an employer-employee perspective but also differences between the EU and the British, that are becoming evident now within negotiations.
Up-skilling the UK
Current UK labour skills shortages, especially in areas that have traditionally relied on EU immigration combined with an undervalued vocational training system all point to a potential post-Brexit labour skills crisis that will hopefully lead to an ‘up-skilling’ of the British work-force and a re-think of adult education. Theresa May’s recent announcement about a governmental review of the adult-education system shows an acknowledgement of this.The Japanese are traditionally great pioneers of the apprenticeship method of training and their companies in the UK have been incremental in providing vocational training & education for the British workforce. Companies like Hitachi Rail have recently launched new apprenticeship programmes and have invested in local technical schools. It’s important we can find a way of incentivising them to stay in the UK.
Potential New Government
Since the briefing took place on the day that the CBI and the IoD threw their support behind Labour’s proposals to maintain a UK/EU custom’s union, we discussed the possibility of a change of Government and an understanding of the Labour Government’s proposals regarding the skills shortage and educational reforms, moving economic growth out of the south and dealing with some of the social problems that led to such a culture of dissatisfaction in the first place.
Please contact us should you wish to hold an innovative Brexit briefing within your company for Japanese staff living in the UK, tailored towards furthering learning and deepening understanding of the British people, politics and society.