Since 2004, WorldFirst have been committed to making the movement of money around the world easier, faster, and cheaper than ever before. Driven by our mission to make it easy to do business anywhere, our payment platform is enabling our customers to collect, convert, and make payments globally. More than 250,000 customers have benefited from our services and sent more than $70bn around the world through our global network.

WorldFirst recently spoke with Chris Slay, Managing Director of the Skills Provision Group, one of our many valued customers who have just recently joined the WorldFirst family.

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Tell us a little about Skills Provision

Skills Provision is a UK based international recruitment agency specialising in global employment solutions. Launched in 2005, Skills Provision provides local and cross-border recruitment, headhunting, unmanaged workforce solutions, and large project teams for multiple clients. Directly or indirectly through partnerships, Skills can support clients in 187+ countries. With an experienced team Skills offer full support to both employers and candidates, regardless of their location. Employers and HR Departments demand high standards from international recruitment agencies. Selection the right partners for the right job is of paramount importance for international business success.

Looking back on 2020

I was actually due to go on a cruise two days before lockdown in March 2020, so I had 3 weeks to look at the business and opportunities.

We were not set up to handle UK domestic business, but immediately saw two inward migrant worker opportunities:

1.      Seasonal Agricultural Workers

The UK relied on over 70,000 seasonal workers each year. They are extremely important in the UK food supply chain. We put forward a proposal to bring in 10,000 workers to help meet this demand, but unfortunately due to Brexit and an annual cap of 10,000 workers  permitted to travel to the UK for temporary work under the Seasonal Workers Pilot (launched in 2019), this proposal was unsuccessful. The quota for this pilot has been expanded to 30,000 for 2021, but as industry bodies such as the Countryside Alliance argues , more is needed to support the farming industry and the broader rural economy. This is an area we are keeping a close eye on.

2.      Health care

This is historically a big area for us, dating back more than 15 years – but always previously in the private sector.

We saw an opportunity to help the government and NHS and made a bold offer to find 50,000 people by the end of 2021 to address:

  • Workforce shortages that existed prior to the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Additional staff requirements for facilities such as the Emergency Nightingale Hospitals

As an established global business, we saw many avenues we could use to support fulfilling these staff requirements, and our proposal was presented to the cabinet office on 1 May 2020.

Understandably, at the time, the Government and NHS were focused on the Covid-19 battle. But while the pandemic is out of the ordinary, staffing shortages—particularly for nursing—are not. One of the most significant post-Brexit challenges is the ability of the NHS to retain qualified health care staff. The NHS relies very heavily on overseas workers to make up for the shortfall.

In addition, senior care workers and nursing assistants are among occupations recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to be added to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) to relieve pressure when freedom of movements ends.

So why did you choose WorldFirst?

We needed to solve 3 key business issues:

1.      Slow payments – in such a low margin sector, slow payments eat into your bottom line very quickly. That’s why we liked the “self-service” model offered by WorldFirst as it is easy to access, simple to use and very intuitive. Many of the payments arrive same day or next business day.

2.      Poor Transparency – unsure if we were receiving the best possible rate for our trades, we turned to WorldFirst who were able to demonstrate how their transparent pricing model would allow us to plan ahead but also understand the true cost of our transfers.

3.      Risk strategy – we needed to explore a hedging strategy to protect us from future rate changes in the markets we operated in and the WorldFirst Risk Strategy model was second to none in our opinion. Furthermore, the ability to hedge out for 2 years if needed was very attractive to us.

Our Roadmap – future strategy

We also needed to find a firm who could help support our expansion strategy into Asia.

WorldFirst’s geographical footprint suited our strategic objective allowing us to draw on their skill set when navigating this part of the World.

WorldFirst worked to understand the challenges our business was facing and helped provide the solutions. With WorldFirst we knew we had a partner who could support our future vision, strategy, and growth.

Do you foresee any long-lasting changes in your industry as a result of COVID-19 and Brexit?

Here are the main changes we are seeing

  • The emergence of what’s known as the “local, local market”. This is nationals of the country where recruitment is required or those holding visa rights to already work in that country.
  • The pandemic is likely to cause a permanent increase in remote working even after the crisis. It is not new, but an acceleration of a trend as businesses have been forced to overcome reservations and establish systems to protect productivity. We have worked remotely since 2005 and are starting to see more businesses follow the same model. It provides so much more flexibility in being able to scale up or down.
  • Recruitment requirements are getting squeezed. This will continue. Business will need leaders and “doers”, but layers of middle management will be removed.
  • As a business represented directly or indirectly in 187 countries, we believe strongly in the importance of building strong partnerships – and see this is a way for our industry to thrive in the future.

 Why are strong partnerships important?

We have used our time well and used partnerships to increase our global imprint to 187 countries worldwide with Globalisation Partners. WorldFirst have supported us to set up a partnership programme to support this new thread of the business.

Today if approached by a client in country A who wants to hire workers in country B but does not have the infrastructure in place to do so, we can not only provide the manpower, but also all the back office support through our partner network within a few hours after a deal is agreed. Such universal support would be unachievable without a strong partnership network such as this.

So, has your recruitment business recovered in 2020?

No, not by a long way, but we are seeing opportunities starting to return. That said, we suspect we could be another 12 months away before the “new normal” is established. It has not been all bad news however, Europe remains very quiet on the recruitment front at the moment, but the Middle East is buoyant. We are even hearing about hiring returning to oil and gas industries.

Others in our network tell us that they are finding South East Asia a fertile area for recruitment as well.


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