New unicorn visa to tackle tech skills gap in the UK

Will Shu, Founder of Deliveroo, has backed calls for a new type of UK visa to be created specifically for technology firms “with the most growth potential” to help them access the skilled staff they need.

Currently, many start-ups can’t find staff with the skills they need in the UK and the current immigration system does not allow them to recruit from abroad easily.

According to the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), 99 per cent of high-growth tech companies face some form of skills shortage, with 61 per cent finding it difficult to find staff with the technical or practical knowledge to do their job.

Moreover, a quarter of tech scale-ups cited computer and software literacy skills as a concern, while 21 per cent said administrative management skills were becoming difficult to find.

A dedicated unicorn visa would send a message about the UK’s commitment to high-growth companies, especially as Brexit threatens the influx of foreign talent.

The unicorn visa category proposed by the CPS would allow companies classed as “scale-ups” to sponsor workers from abroad without much paperwork.

In order to qualify, companies will require a minimum turnover of £25 million, and a growth rate or employee turnover of 40 per cent over three years.

Will Shu, Founder of Deliveroo, said: “As a tech company the skills we need are changing, increasingly specialised, and of course we want excellence.

“The UK has 15 [unicorns], which is great but it’s not enough and nor is it guaranteed to continue in such a competitive global marketplace. So we should all be ambitious for Britain and want to see the next generation of unicorns founded and grown right here.”

Nevertheless, importing skills in from overseas should not be the only option; the report suggests that the Government undertake an immediate skills review, to address how to improve the availability of talent in the private and tech sectors in the UK.