Calnex chief attacks plan to limit foreign workers

David Cameron stated intent to take UK out of Europe if proposals not expected. Picture: Getty

David Cameron stated intent to take UK out of Europe if proposals not expected. Picture: Getty

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THE chief executive of fast-growing technology group Calnex has spoken out against efforts to curb immigration, arguing that Scotland does not produce enough highly skilled engineers of its own.

Tommy Cook, who founded the Linlithgow-based maker of kits for testing mobile phone networks in 2006, said it would be a “massive step backwards” if the country faced more barriers to bringing in the skills it needs.

“There’s a lot of negative discussion about immigration, but most engineering companies I speak to worry there’s not enough young engineers being produced in this country to keep feeding the system,” Cook told Scotland on Sunday.

He added: “It would be a massive backward step if I had more barriers to hiring people. Over the last couple of years, about 30 per cent of the engineers we’ve hired have been from outside Britain. There’s no doubt we would have been worse off if these people hadn’t joined us.”

David Cameron last month signalled he was ready to lead Britain out of the European Union if other states opposed tough new proposals to cut immigration.

In a long-awaited speech setting out plans to bar EU migrants from claiming welfare for the first four years after arriving in the UK and deport those who do not find jobs within six months, the Prime Minister warned he would “rule nothing out” if other European states turn a deaf ear to British concerns.

Despite his concerns over the lack of available talent, Cook said that Scotland was particularly strong in the telecoms field, pointing to the expertise that came out of Hewlett-Packard’s Agilent spin-off in South Queensferry at the turn of the millennium.

“This is high-value, low-volume stuff, and customers look to us as being a country that does difficult things very well,” he said. “The technology sector should be aiming for places where it needs to continually innovate and win against other countries.”

Calnex last year secured £2 million of funding from the Scottish Loan Fund to help develop its next generation of testing kit as it taps into a global market worth some $1.3 billion (£830m).

The company, which counts the likes of Samsung and Vodafone among its clients, recently moved to larger offices at Linlithgow’s Oracle Campus, after outgrowing its previous base in the town. It employs about 65 people, of whom more than 50 are based in Linlithgow, with the rest spread mainly across North America and Asia.

Cook said demand for the company’s products has been driven by the “explosion” in cloud computing and the subsequent need for more data to be delivered over networks. “We’ve just come out with a product that’s state of the art but the telecoms world never stops and we’re already working on the next generation and looking to increase headcount next year on the back of that,” he said.

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