Between quarter one 2012 and quarter one 2013, vacancies across the UK dropped by 12%, but recent figures released by the Office of National Statistics show that GDP rose by 0.8% over the three months to April 2013 which signals continuing economic recovery that will translate into greater confidence among employers.
Vacancies across London dipped by 15% between quarter four 2012 and quarter one 2013, while employment levels across the regions continue to climb. In the North West, for example, temporary recruitment levels are up 53% and in the North East, vacancies have increased by 22%. These figures can largely be attributed to an increase in engineering and manufacturing in the North, spurred by a buoyant car industry and the Government’s National Infrastructure Plan.
As predicted, there was once again an increase in demand for HR professionals within the NHS as the transition between primary care trusts (PCTs) and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) neared deadline for completion in April. Although the new structures were scheduled to be in place by the end of quarter one 2013, departmental functions are not yet in place and as a result there is still a strong demand for professionals with a background in this area.
At present, there is a slight skills shortage in London. Although eligible candidates are being brought in from outside the capital, the most sought after professionals – those with a strong track record of success – are rotating from placement to placement seamlessly. A shortage of candidates with NHS experience means that professionals who have worked within local government and other areas of the public sector are being also snapped up.
The NHS’s new structure means that the new Groups are run very much like a commercial business. And this change in set-up coupled with an acute need for quality candidates has encouraged employers to consider professionals without the mandatory public sector background, which was essential just last year. This scramble for talent is expected to slow down as the new groups source permanent staff in the coming months.
Unlike the rest of the UK, retail in the capital continues to perform well. According to the latest report by the British Retail Consortium, footfall on Greater London's high streets rose by 4.2% in April 2013 and just 7.4% of the capital's shops were vacant, compared to the national average of 11.9%.
This ‘London retail bubble’ has created interim and contract HR roles within both on and off-line retailers as employers seek to rapidly grow and better manage their teams. Throughout last quarter, there was a notable increase in vacancies within boutique style retailers rather than fast-fashion or designer companies.
Research from Barclays, for example, shows that firms that sell their products or services mostly online have seen revenues grow by on average 11.4 % in the last three years, over 50 times faster than GDP growth of 0.2% over the period. This is reflected in an increase in vacancies within ecommerce and digital companies throughout the capital. Senior level HR professionals with a background in recruiting and managing personnel with digital expertise are particularly sought after as structures and skill-sets within these companies vary dramatically from traditional retail operations.
The manufacturing sector will continue to boost employment in the coming months, particularly throughout the North and the Midlands. Growth prospects among English manufacturing small-to-medium size businesses (SMEs) is at a twelve month high according to the latest manufacturing advisory service (MAS) barometer, which reveals nearly two thirds (64%) of companies questioned are expecting to increase sales over the next six months. Furthermore, the Government’s advanced manufacturing supply chain initiative (AMSCI) has pledged a £213 million investment designed to create over 11,000 new jobs and safeguard another 5,000 in the sector. This boom in activity is creating a need for senior HR professionals who can implement processes to help manage growth and efficiency.
Business lobby group, the CBI, expects the economy to grow by 1% this year and 2% in 2014. And as employers adjust to this more stable economic situation, we believe they will increasingly turn to contract and interim HR staff to help manage their future growth and sustainability. Every organisation’s success depends on the talent that is driving it. And smart employers know that investing in their HR function is a surefire way to ensure that they source, train and manage the right people to propel their business forward.