'Come to Sheffield - it's vibrant and growing,' says city following claim Home Office is struggling to fill jobs
Business leaders, university experts and the council are urgingÂ workers to move toÂ 'vibrant and growing' Sheffield amid claims the Government is struggling to persuade staff to relocate here.
The Home Office wants to recruit an extra 500 immigration caseworkers by next April - but a conference heard the organisation faced a 'particular problem enticing staff to move to Sheffield'.
Vulcan House, the department's riverside centre on Millsands, handles global visa applications for work permits, student visas, premium services and family cases. The Home Office is facing a hugely increased workload to prepare for Brexit - three million EU nationals in Britain will need to be registered and the immigration system implemented after the country leaves the union.
The department has emphasised that European casework is processed in Liverpool and there is 'extremely high demand' for the roles it advertises. However, it is understood existing staff have expressed reluctance to transfer to Sheffield from Merseyside because of a perceived lack of incentives.
Creative Sheffield, the city's economic development agency, was to hold a meeting with the Home Office next week to discuss how the place could be promoted as an attractive location in which to live and work.
Neil Armstrong, commercial director at TribePad, which handles job applications for international clients, said moving to Sheffield in 2005 with his fiancée to take a job at Plusnet was one of the 'best decisions' of their lives.
"The city centre is vibrant, growing and there are more cranes than ever," said Neil.
"We love the green spaces of ‘The Outdoor City’ and plan to live here for life. I strongly recommend Sheffield to anyone I ever meet. I hope the Home Office can do more to persuade candidates of the benefits of living and working in this great city."
Dr Miroslav Baros, a lecturer who introduced immigration law to the teaching programme at Sheffield Hallam University, said a number of its graduates had gone on to become Home Office employees.
"Our students are very enthusiastic and intellectual," he said. About 60 students each year choose the module in their final year, focusing on domestic, EU, human rights and United Nations law. They also learn, in detail, about categories of immigrants from asylum seekers to workers, investors, holidaymakers and diplomats.
"It is a very complex and frequently changing area."
Tracy Bush, managing director of Relocate2Sheffield, which helps local businesses attract sought-after staff, said she had worked with hundreds of people who have moved here over the past decade.
"Many of those thought they would be here for a couple of years, but are still here. They all tell me the same reasons - that Sheffield is a friendly, safe city that offers a great work-life balance. This and the fact we have such a high retention of students from our two leading universities speaks volumes.
"We all need to be shouting about our wonderful city, so that each and every one of us are ambassadors for living in Sheffield."
Louisa Harrison-Walker, managing director of recruitment firm Benchmark and chair of council at Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, said 'the talent is definitely out there'.
"We have seen many organisations invest in relevant, job-specific training to successfully develop a workforce in a tight time frame," she added.
A council spokesman said Creative Sheffield would be meeting the Home Office 'to see what their needs are'.
"From a Sheffield perspective, we want to work with them to see if there is any more we can do."
The authority said Sheffield was a 'highly popular city to live, work and study in'.
"Our two universities are thriving and we have this year announced partnerships with Boeing, McLaren Automotive and Rolls-Royce that will bring thousands of highly-skilled jobs to the region. Our digital and tech sector is the fastest-growing in the country and attracting innovative companies to the region.
"We frequently feature in polls as the happiest place to live in the UK given our abundance of green space and the Peak District on our doorstep. Sheffield has a history of supplying both the public and private sector with highly-skilled employees and can work with the Home Office to help them meet their recruitment targets through hosting jobs fairs and other initiatives.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “UK Visas and Immigration continues to perform efficiently and to high standards despite increasing demand for visas and immigration documents thanks to the increased digitisation of our processes. Applying for settled status will be a streamlined, low-cost, digital process and we will have the workforce required to continue delivering a high-quality service for customers.”
Casework jobs outside London have been advertised with salaries between £23,330 and £26,831. Assessments of applications from regional hubs around the world were recently moved to Sheffield.
The claim about a 'particular problem enticing staff to Sheffield' came in written evidence from the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association to the Commons home affairs select committee.
"During ILPA’s annual business immigration conference, UK Visas and Immigration representatives confirmed the department is currently having problems with growing its staffing capacity," the association said.