Is it a job-seekers’ market? Bournemouth Jobs Fair

The queue outside the job fair. Photo by the author

Brexit has been blamed for creating a shortfall in workers across many sectors, so it should be a good time to be looking for work, or to boost over-stretched pay-packets.

The Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth hosted a ‘jobs fair’ at the start of February, giving employers a chance to showcase opportunities to interest potential new recruits. I went along, to see if the current political situation, including the cost-of-living crisis, Covid and the impact of Brexit on work and vacancies, might show up in reasons for attending. I spoke to some who were patiently waiting in the (rather long) queue for admission and to several groups who had attended.

  • The first gentleman with whom I spoke was in health care looking after special needs patients. He had a range of relevant qualifications and was employed locally, but was now looking for a much-needed career change. In his words, his job had become ‘too punishing’. I didn’t meet anyone wanting to enter health care, so this comment reflects the national picture, with more people wanting to leave than join the health professions.
  • A mother and daughter were enthusiastic about the range of jobs locally, although the daughter’s interests in dog grooming seemed not to be catered for. Another mother said that her daughter was coming up to her ‘A levels’ so attending the jobs fair would give her daughter some experience of activities involved in future job hunting.
  • A group of lads from ‘Innovate Dorset’, which specialises in supporting children and young people to re-engage with education and training, and their representative from that organisation, also attended and found it well worthwhile.
  • One gentleman explained how he had come to the UK several years ago, improved his English during his time here and also speaks several other languages. Having worked in hospitality and other jobs he was now looking for something more fulfilling, maybe teaching languages. He may struggle, given the number of local language schools that have closed or reduced the size of their operations since the pandemic, and the impact of new rules about study in the UK since Brexit. Again, hospitality is a ‘shortage sector’, but I did not encounter anyone seeking work in that field.

From the small sample of attendees who I had spoken with, this event appeared to have been very helpful. Most were very pleased to have been able to attend and chatting to some in the very long queue, several points stood out:

  • A number of students attending from Bournemouth University were looking for work that would align with their studies, whilst also producing some income to help them cope with the cost-of-living crisis during their time in the local area.
  • There was a broad age range from school leavers to retirees, which does not reflect the national data suggesting that many over 50s are opting out of work.
  • A number of people were looking for a job/career change from their previous occupations, both employed and unemployed.
  • A broad skill set across attendees was also evident.

In summary, this appeared to be a very worthwhile event and judging by the numbers and the comments from this small sample, the attendees showed a thirst for information and were satisfied with the experience and opportunity provided. But, however valuable this initiative and others like it may be across the UK, can it meaningfully impact upon the loss of workers needed across industry, farming, health care and hospitality, due to Brexit?

There is also the prospect of cost and time savings to the UK in professional training, when it can accept ready qualified personnel from the European Union (EU), given that harmonised, compliant training is acceptable across all member states. The European labour market has specific benefits for member states from the EU’s four important freedoms:

  • Free movement of goods;
  • Free movement of capital;
  • Freedom to establish and provide services; and
  • Free movement of people.

The following extract from ‘Fact Sheets on The European Union’ refers:

‘Freedom of movement for workers has been one of the founding principles of the EU since its inception. It is laid down in Article 45 TFEU and is a fundamental right of workers, complementing the free movement of goods, capital and services within the European single market. It entails the abolition of any discrimination based on nationality as regards employment, remuneration and other conditions of work and employment. Moreover, this article stipulates that an EU worker has the right to accept a job offer made, to move freely within the country, to stay for the purpose of employment and to stay on afterwards under certain conditions.’

We should not ignore the cost to the UK’s growth in lost opportunities for UK nationals to work in EU member states, and UK employers’ right to EU staff under freedom of movement.