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Enterprise partnerships could solve startup skills gap, says panel

Caroline Baldwin

Startups may find partnerships with larger corporations the best way to tackle hiring blockades caused by immigration laws, said a panel discussion in London today.

Elizabeth Varley, co-founder and CEO at TechHub, said the time and expense to sponsor an employee for a visa is much greater for small companies than it is for larger corporations. Startups may benefit from partnering with larger enterprises to reduce costs.

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“Going from a two-person company to a 10-person company is a huge leap, and to reduce those costs companies could partner with corporates for support,” she told DLA Piper's European Technology Leaders Summit.

Varley said larger enterprises could benefit from startups’ innovation and ideas.

The startup community faces a hiring roadblock due to a shortage of talent, exacerbated by strict UK immigration laws which prevent businesses from hiring abroad.

Both small and large companies are dealing with a massive skills shortage in the UK. Varley said people coming out of university lack the skills in demand.

“We allow people to come here to study, but don’t make it easy to stay and work in a small company,” said Varley. “There’s an opportunity for government to address issues around that, we don’t want to give a great education here and then they leave the country.”

Education is clearly a key area which could decrease the skills gap in the UK. Claire Cockerton, head of innovation at Level 39, said universities have a huge role to play, as do shorter more practical training courses.

“It’s very important to celebrate different types of education and learning, and reach out to those who don’t go to university,” she said.

Cockerton also drew attention Milk Roundabout - a tech startup job fair - which helps companies connect with talent.

Ayelet Mavor, deputy director of the UK Israel Tech Hub joint venture, said immigrants have a very constructive attitude towards risk, and are "natural born" entrepreneurs. She said that Israel is second only to Silicon Valley in the number of startups.

Mavor referred to an associate who moved to the UK on an entrepreneurial visa which took immigration authorities only eight days to approve. “It means that it’s working,” she said. “And everyone’s welcome in the eyes of the law.”


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