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North East recruitment trends in 2018

by Helen Dodds | 12 February 2018

The recruitment sector today is characterised by political instability and economic uncertainty – both of which are affecting how businesses hire on a daily basis. Every day we hear further reports of the challenges North East organisations are facing when it comes to finding, hiring, and retaining the best talent. Outlined below are some of the key trends that I believe will influence the North East recruitment landscape in 2018.

Fierce competition for talent across the North East
Our clients often comment on the shortage of skilled candidates in the North East, and particularly on the distinct lack of ACA and CTA qualified candidates within the Chartered Accountancy Practice. In 2018 we also expect to see continued demand for regulatory and compliance professionals along with salary increases for these sought-after candidates as a result of regulatory changes and Brexit. For those organisations struggling to find suitable candidates, our advice is to be flexible and consider hiring professionals with transferable skills, or relevant sector experience even if they are not an exact fit for the job description. It is also vital for companies to streamline their recruitment processes making them efficient and timely to avoid losing top talent to competitors. Employers should also be aware that salary alone will not attract top-calibre candidates as they are increasingly motivated by work-life balance, company culture, structured career progression options and flexible working.

Upskilling and retaining home grown talent
In April 2017 the government announced the Apprenticeship Levy – a tax on large UK employers with a wage bill of over £3 million per annum. These employers will be required to pay 0.5 percent of their annual payroll into the Levy and these funds will be used to pay for new apprenticeships. As many employers have spent the past year coming to terms with the levy and what it means for their business, I hope that in 2018 we will see more strategies being put in place for apprenticeships and training programmes – which will greatly benefit the UK talent pool. Investing in apprentices will hopefully go some way in assisting the inevitable drop in skilled candidates as a result of Brexit, and force UK businesses to focus on developing home grown talent to fill out growing skills gaps.

Greater shift towards fixed term and permanent placements
Businesses and public sector organisations are demonstrating renewed confidence in the market by investing in more permanent staffing solutions. Over the last six months we have seen a surge in the number of permanent placements and fixed term contracts, and a heightened demand for skilled candidates due to increased budgets. I believe this is due to organisations preparing for legislative changes over the next 24 months – Brexit, GDPR – and are strengthening their permanent teams in preparation.

Academy schools – a new opportunity for top finance candidates
The rise in academies across the North East also produces a massive opportunity in my opinion. Academies are state-funded schools and colleges in England which are directly funded by the Department for Education and independent of local authority control. The terms of the arrangements are set out in individual Academy Funding Agreements. Essentially this means that academies will have more freedom than other state schools over their finances, the curriculum, and teachers' pay and conditions. The increase in academies is a real opportunity for both candidates and recruitment agencies working within the finance market. The academies will be an attractive option especially for finance professionals because it will give candidates more freedom and less involvement from Local Authorities.

Brexit – a threat to the region?
In October last year it was announced by Chancellor Philip Hammond that the Treasury had analysed the impact of Brexit on the North East but would not release the results. He said experts from across the region had produced models showing how different regions would be impacted when the UK leaves the European Union, but the findings will not be released because of their commercially sensitive nature. I believe this could cause a number of problems for North East recruitment, despite the recent rise in permanent and fixed-term hiring. It is frustrating that the government is not prepared to share any of these assessments, nor explain how they are going to support the regions that will be most affected by Brexit, the North East being one. It is no surprise that the North East is one of the areas most exposed to the impact of a bad, or no Brexit deal, and indeed to the impact of the whole process of leaving the EU, given our current trading links with Europe. This coupled with the substantial amount of European funding we receive makes for a very uncertain future, and the government must release more data and provide more guidance and support if they want North East businesses to continue hiring as normal.

We are confident that the struggle to find candidates with the desired skills and attributes will only get tougher, and organisations should be aware of this and do all they can to remain competitive. To discuss what you can do to address the current challenges faced across the region you can contact me by emailing helen.dodds@sellickpartnership.co.uk or call me on 0191 261 8585.