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The rise of the regions

Ann Swain, CEO of APSCo


As the city that generates approximately 22 per cent of the UK's GDP, there is no disputing that London continues to provide a lucrative market for professional recruiters. However, while our capital’s reign as a command centre for the global economy may be far from over, the rise of the regions cannot be ignored.   


In recent years, post-industrial towns and cities of the Midlands and the North of England, in particular, have attracted some of the UK’s largest employers - and this is creating opportunities for both professionals and the consultancies that place them.


For example, as the largest economic centre in the UK outside of London, Leeds is now also home to the headquarters of Channel 4, while HMRC houses 6,000 staff in Wellington Place, the new urban quarter of the city. These stories of mega-brands ‘north-shoring’ operations are not unique: The BBC is now based in Salford and HSBC in Birmingham.


Growth outside of London


Against this backdrop, it is unsurprising that, earlier this year, the Resolution Foundation revealed that London is no longer the fastest growing jobs market. In fact, South Yorkshire (which is home to cities including Sheffield and Rotherham) and Merseyside (which comprises of the city of Liverpool and its surrounding metropolitan boroughs) recorded the strongest levels of jobs growth in the decade since the financial crisis, with role availability up in these areas by 6.5% and 6.4% respectively.


Meanwhile, net migration out of London  – that is people moving out minus people moving in – was 14 per cent higher in 2017 compared with the previous year and 55 per cent higher than 2012, according to the latest available data from the Office for National Statistics.  


Research from Vacancysoft, which is produced in conjunction with APSCo, clearly demonstrates that efforts to rebalance the economy away from London continue to have a positive impact on demand for talent in major cities across the UK, as businesses increasingly take advantage of investment in infrastructure, skilled local talent pools and comparatively lower overheads.


Professional vacancies in Manchester increased by 32.4% year-on-year in March 2019, amounting to 46% of all job openings across the North. In Leeds, white-collar job availability rose by 22% during the same period.


Professional recruitment trends


Unsurprisingly, this trend is also reflected in the professional recruitment market, with ambitious firms deciding to set-up, relocate or expand into cities outside of the capital which are brimming with opportunity.  


In 2015, in response to member demand, we made a commitment to offer tailored support to our rapidly expanding membership base that was located outside of the M25. Since then, we have regularly hosted our Members Meetings and other events – including the APSCo Charity Ball - in cities up and down the country and ramped up market intelligence which focuses on specific geographical markets.      


Last year, we also launched our In the Round regional roadshow: a series of events for recruitment leaders across the UK – stopping off at locations including Newcastle, Southampton and Reading - designed to help businesses to take control and drive their own success.


The Government’s current industrial strategy recognises the economic imbalance that exists between London and the regions outside of the capital and is committed to boosting regional economies through the provision of strong infrastructure and favourable business environments – and it seems the professional recruitment sector is already taking full advantage. 

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