Brexit and Trump to hinder recruitment, executives suggest

Jessica Rowbury attends a panel session, where possible implications of Brexit and the Trump administration were debated


olitical uncertainty brought about by Brexit and the new President Donald Trump administration could make it harder to hire and

move skilled people, executives have said during a panel session at Photonics West. The group discussion, which took place

on 1 February, included senior members of German firms Trumpf and Schott, US companies II-VI Photonics and nLight, and Denmark-based NKT Photonics. During the session, Basil Garabet, CEO

of the Photonics Group at NKT, said that the fibre laser manufacturer is struggling to find talented people across its main sites in the UK (Southampton), Germany (Cologne) and Denmark (Copenhagen). ‘We’re recruiting in all of those places but … it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find the right people at the right time. Even trying to find software engineers in Germany, for instance, is a tough one that I didn’t think would be,’ he said. ‘When additional challenges

are thrown your way [politically] … it doesn’t make things easier.’ Garabet pointed out

‘Theresa May has been pushing for a hard Brexit’

will have three engineers relocating from Southampton to Denmark, and that’s an easy way of doing things.’ Garabet added that, without the luxury of

that Britain’s exit from the European Union could pose a problem, especially in the case of a ‘hard’ Brexit, whereby the UK would leave the single market completely and then have a relationship based – at least initially – on World Trade Organisation rules. ‘The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has been pushing for a hard Brexit. If that’s the case then the red line will be with the free movement of people, which will affect the way we [NKT] operate at the moment,’ he commented. ‘We have engineers in Southampton that move freely to Denmark, and in the next month or so we

14 Electro Optics March 2017

“We have to acknowledge the world has changed. Recently it has changed dramatically”

free movement, moving staff will take much more time and effort, which creates further challenges to a firm already struggling with the supply of talent. Christoph Fark, executive VP of Schott’s Advanced Optics business unit, commented that in addition to Brexit, upcoming elections in France, The Netherlands, and Germany add to the political uncertainly felt across Europe. ‘We have to acknowledge the world has changed – it has not changed

very much in the last 30 years, but recently it has changed dramatically,’ he said. NKT Photonics recently strengthened its position in the United States by acquiring fibre laser producer Fianium last year. Garabet said that the company’s large sales force and manufacturing activities could be affected by uncertainty brought about by the new US administration. The effects of Trump’s travel ban –

currently suspended, but in effect at the time of Photonics West – was apparent

Effects of Trump’s travel ban were felt at the show

at the show, as conference speakers from Canadian and UK universities were refused entry into the country. Berthold Schmidt, managing director at Trumpf, remarked that tighter immigration controls in the US will affect both the running of its business and also the acquisition of talented people. ‘We have people in New Jersey allocated on our manufacturing line. We depend on having an open door in terms of borders to direct the people that we require for our operation in the US,’ he noted. ‘In terms of R&D, we have to open our doors to talented people and to attract a worldwide pool to our site in Princeton.’ Schott’s Fark said that photonics companies should review their business strategies more often, given that changes are happening so rapidly. ‘Maybe in the past it was good enough to base the strategy on a certain limited number of assumptions, but I think as a consequence of those [political] uncertainties, the number of assumptions need to go up … you have to shorten your review cycle to make sure strategies are valid,’ he said.

Cyber threats Cyber security was also discussed during the session as one of the future threats

@electrooptics |

Frederic Legrand - COMEO/

Evan El-Amin/

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44