“Brexit makes me feel insecure about the future”

Steve Wooler, chief executive of BWB Consulting.

Steve Wooler, chief executive of BWB Consulting, says it isn’t just the business impact of the EU referendum that the consulting engineering industry should be concerned about.

Right now, it isn’t the potential impact on business that dominates my thinking. What really bothers me, is the human impact that I can see in front of me. A major strength of our business is that it has a fabulous blend of seasoned experience and youthful enthusiasm. Our team is curious, outward-looking, technically savvy, passionate about what they do, and they’ll always find innovative ways of meeting client needs.

The day after the referendum decision however, innate optimism about the future was dampened by a mix of bafflement, uncertainty, even fear.

Free movement of labour across Europe has enabled BWB to recruit talent from a very large and culturally diverse market. The skills gap is a major threat to the continuing growth and success of the UK’s construction sector, but it’s a gap that the UK alone cannot possibly plug.

Part of the solution for us has been to recruit talented and ambitious people from across Europe – people who have either studied here because of the quality of our universities, or come to build a career in the vibrant, optimistic business climate that has (so far) defined the UK.

"Part of the solution for us has been to recruit talented and ambitious people from across Europe who bring an alternative but complementary perspective to our business culture and add real value to our clients."

A growing proportion, currently six per cent, of BWB’s people are continental Europeans - valued and loyal professionals who contribute significantly to our business success. Access to the European labour market is also helping tackle the long-standing gender imbalance in our industry because the majority of our Europeans are women.

They have been like a breath of fresh air in our business. They bring an alternative but complementary perspective to our business culture and add real value to the services we offer to our clients. These are people who should be admired and encouraged for having the gumption to “get on their bike” – to come here and build a professional life – exactly the kind of entrepreneurial spirit and commitment the UK economy needs!

Some of the comments that my European colleagues have made in the wake of the referendum vote tell a poignant story:

“I really like the way everything works in this country and I feel really welcome in my company as there is no distinction between anyone. We are all a whole team and it doesn’t matter where you are coming from. But for the first time in nearly four years that I have been in England I felt that I wasn’t as welcome as I thought, and this has made me think that one of every two people don’t want people like me in the country.” 
Female graduate structural engineer from Spain

“I decided to work in the UK as I considered it one of the best among the developed countries for quality of life and career opportunities. I don’t agree with the Brexit decision as I consider it as a huge risk for UK. I feel insecure and unsure for the future and for the consequences of Brexit.” 
Female geotechnical engineer from Greece

“When it comes to engineering and consultancy, there is no doubt that the UK is a leader, providing the best opportunities for people to develop themselves - working in the UK and being aware of how the rest of Europe does, I believe it is like living in the future! The UK and European Union will always be cooperating no matter what. It is just sad that people had false information and they voted using that.”
Male graduate structural engineer from Greece

"I have a Polish passport and I don't know what my rights are going to be in a few years."
Female administrator from Poland

“Why do I like to work in UK? People and culture are different. More opportunities. I have a chance to progress at work in the UK, which I don’t know if it would be as easy in Poland. What will be the consequences of leaving the EU? I have a Polish passport and I don’t know what my rights are going to be in a few years.”
Female corporate administrator from Poland

For weeks now there has been too much angry politics, but nowhere near enough considered thinking. UK infrastructure badly needs upgrading. We know there’s a worsening skills shortage. We know that engineers from across Europe are playing a key part in helping us to solve that problem. We know that they are brilliant people to work with.

There are all kinds of lessons to learn from the EU referendum. One of them is that closed doors will only blight our future. Our industry and our nation cannot afford a situation where talented people feel they are unwelcome.

Whatever happens to the UK’s relationship with the European Union, BWB will always find a way of warmly welcoming talented ambitious professionals, irrespective of their country of birth.


Extremely well said.
Hear Hear Steve.
A worrying time, but an important message to reinforce that our reputation for tolerance and integration will not change as it is an integral part of our culture.
Steve your spot on and GGS has a similar range of skilled professional staff from mainland Europe. The human cost and uncertainty associated with Brexit is considerable. We need to work hard at both supporting and making the case in support of our staff over the next few months and beyond.