Career focus: South East

first_imgRelated posts:No related photos. Career focus: South EastOn 21 Sep 2004 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. A region by region look at working in HR in the UK. This month we investigate theSouth East.Great opportunities on offer in the SouthEastTheSouth East of England is rightly lauded as one of the UK’smost important economic regions. In fact, its economy is the 22nd largest inthe world, bigger than that of several European countries, according to theSouth East Economic Development Agency (Seeda).Theregion is home to around eight million people and comprises the counties of Berkshire,Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, the Isle of White, Kent,Oxfordshire, Surrey and Sussex.Accordingto Seeda, the South East isthe driving force of the English economy with the average gross income perperson higher than anywhere else in the country.TheHSBC Regional Focus Report 2004 places the South East near the top of theregional growth league, but warns that its economy is vulnerable to consumerretrenchment.Inthe long-term, it cites shortages of land, housing and manpower, and anoverloaded transport infrastructure as the key hurdles to continued success.However, it reports that ambitious government plans for development in theThames Gateway and Kent will partially alleviate some of these issues.Theregion also has a regional assembly that represents the area and hasresponsibilities around advocacy, accountability and regional planning.Thelatest government figures show the employment rate is 78.6 per cent or around4.07 million, up by 22,000 on the same period last year. Theseasonally-adjusted rate in the South East was 3.7 per cent (156,000) betweenApril and June, down by 0.3 per cent on the previous year.The seasonally-adjusted number of claimantsdropped by 1,500 in the last 12 months to 68,900 in July 2004. Althoughthe South East offers some great career opportunities for HR staff one of thekey challenges for the profession is recruitment and retention in such a tightlabour market.TomHadley, director of external relations at the Recruitment and EmploymentConfederation (REC) believes skills shortages and the tight labour market willprove difficult for the region’s HR departments.”It’sbeen the tightest labour market in the UK,”he says. “The need to recruit has increased again during the last ninemonths. One of the major challenges is finding and retaining the best people.”IThas been picking up again recently with companies looking to recruit new staff.However, EU enlargement could have a positive effect. A lot of new people arecoming from the Continent and alleviating some of the skills shortages,particularly in the service sector,” he explains.Hadleyalso pointed to a worrying trend that is seeing people move away to escape thehigh living costs.”Thereis some anecdotal evidence that workers are moving away from the South Eastbecause of the high living and housing costs, particularly staff in the publicsector,” he says.Accordingto the Manpower Economic Outlook Survey,employers in the region are not as confident as they have been in the past.South East businesses reported a net employment outlook of +11, below thenational average of +16 and the lowest quarter two results for the last sevenyears.Living in the regionEducationTherush for school places and the availability at the best schools is a majorworry for many parents. The average pupilto teacher ratios are 22.4 and 17.3 for primary and secondaryschools respectively. This compares with national averages of 22 and 16.4. Theaverage class sizes in the South East are 26.4 and 21.8, broadly in line withthe UKaverage.TransportTheSouth East has some of the most acute transport problems in the country, withhuge congestion at peak times on the road and rail systems. It has the busiestroad network outside of the capital, taking about 4,800 vehicles every day. Alack of investment coupled with difficult employee relations has led to arailway system that runs below capacity and, if you ask commuters, rarely ontime.Culture/LifestyleWithineasy reach of many Londonhot spots, the South East also has plenty to offer in cities such as Brightonand Southampton. There is also apleasant coastline and areas of natural and historical significance. Shopaholics should be happy withthe gigantic Bluewater and Lakesideshopping centres.HousingVarioussources say the rapid growth of property prices has abated slightly recently,but the region is still second only to Londonin terms of prices. The overall average cost of a home in the region is£213,828. According to official figures from the Land Registry an averagedetached house will cost around £339,824, with a semi-detached priced at£201,541. A terraced house will cost an average of £166,583, while a flat ormaisonette is estimated at £140,987.HR contacts and local informationSouthEast Development Agency regional assembly of Personneland Development branches in the South East: profileSkandiaStaff:1,600Based:SouthamptonFinancialservices firm Skandia hasbeen based in Southampton sinceits formation 25 years ago, and was set up as part of a deliberate move awayfrom the City of London.The decision led to a range of HR benefits, such as lower costs, and a moreattractive lifestyle for staff.HRdirector Mark O’Connell says the location has given him the edge overcompetitors.”Thevast majority of staff joining us aremaking a shift away from London,and the long commutes associated with working there,” he explains.”There’sa large catchment area fornew staff, and our employees have an average commute of just 20 minutes. Thishas really helped us with recruitment and retention and I think there’s a trendnow for people, especially those with families, to move away from London.”Headmits there is something of a trade-off being located on the South Coastas staff often have to travelfurther for business meetings and trips into London,but for many, this is a small price to pay. It has also enabled the company tobe proactive in the business community as it is one of the main operators inthe sector outside the capital.”Beingbased in a regional city has helped us build a larger profile than if we hadjust been one of the crowd inLondon,”he adds. “We play a bigger and more active role in the business communityas a regional head office.”Move here for…SalariesTherates of pay are higher than almost anywhere elseThe challengeWithsuch a tight labour market you will get to experience HR at its sharpest andmost innovativeCareersWithso many large, international organisations based in the South East, careers canprogress fasterBut beware of…Health serviceTheregion has the worst performing health service in EnglandStaff shortagesSkilledstaff in almost every industry arein short supplyCost of livingTheextra salary will not make the huge house prices easier to takelast_img read more