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about 1 year ago

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It’s been impossible to ignore the current buzz surrounding the Government’s Northern Powerhouse initiative. Cities like Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield will merge into an economic hub where, instead of working independently, join together to create a ‘powerhouse’ to rival London.

This presents the recruitment industry with a number of challenges, as well as the opportunity for growth which isn’t exclusive to specialists in the north.

Bringing together northern cities with plans for a high speed rail network, as well as further bolstering the rail links between London and Manchester, increases the number of commutable roles across the country.

Joining northern cities means businesses will recruit from a bigger talent pool, especially with plans for a high speed rail network linking Leeds and Manchester. 100,000 more jobs will be created and will bring over £18bn to the region by 2030, cementing a real opportunity for recruitment specialists to grow with roles all over the UK becoming easily accessible.

However, this growth is not without its challenges and some are presenting themselves already. The job opportunities are certainly increasing, but a lot of firms in the digital sector are finding there’s a shortage of talent. In fact, a recent survey by Manchester Digital revealed that businesses are having to turn away work because they cannot recruit at the same rate they are winning business. It’s not just the digital sector facing a skills crisis, with IT and engineering struggling to recruit the right people too, which is proving to seriously hamper business growth plans.

Of course, solving the problem of a skills gap is not the sole responsibility of recruitment specialists to fix; the Government needs to step in and formally address this and put a solid plan in place. However, there are several things recruitment specialists can do to ensure they can continue supplying their clients with the skills and talent they need.

Meridian’s construction sector recently supported the #LoveLives campaign which seeks to raise £400,000 to secure the short-term future of almost 200 people wanting to become apprentices through social enterprise, Building Lives. The aim is to give young people the access to apprenticeships to ensure the stability of the construction industry in the long term.

In the short term, recruiters can plug the gaps by shifting their focus to supplying part-time candidates or contractors. Also, when it comes to upskilling current employees, businesses and recruiters should consider re-directing training to focus on what skills will actually help to grow the business rather than current ‘learner demand’ methods.

More investment needs to be made in training, highlighted by the publication of the CIPD Learning and Development Survey 2014. It revealed the median annual training budget per employee in the UK is £286, a sizeable decrease on the 2013 figure of £316. The public sector remains the lowest investor in training with £238, whereas the private sector is starting to take action as the highest investors at £372 per employee.

Mark Mitchell, CEO of Meridian Business Support has a long term solution for the growing skills gap: “Recruitment specialists must work closely with businesses to come up with a tangible solution to face the complex and fast-moving world of technology. This would involve getting closer to schools and colleges to offer skills training and advice about the current job market across the UK and highlight the possibilities in particular areas. With these resources available, young people entering the world of work will be better-informed and be able to choose their area of study based on skills shortages for a better chance of securing employment.

“Despite the skills shortage, Northern Powerhouse plans present a huge opportunity for businesses all over the UK to expand their client and candidate portfolio, further bolstering the impressive growth figures in this sector.”