Lying at the heart of Britain, the Midlands cover a huge geographical area, with a population of more than nine million people.
The area is traditionally split into east and west regions, with distinct economic, social and cultural differences. The East Midlands, which is more sparsely populated than its western neighbour, comprises the counties of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Rutland.
The region has a strong industrial tradition but is also dominated by rural communities, with 40 per cent of the population living in towns of less than 10,000 people.
Manufacturing, service sector and industrial employers are the backbone of the economy, although consistent growth is undermined by low levels of GDP per head. In fact, the area is ranked just 37th among the 77 EU regions.
The East Midlands Development Agency points to a poor economic structure and marked variations in performance across the regions as the key challenges to future prosperity.
The latest Labour Force Survey figures show employment in the region has grown slightly, although there are no significant differences from the same time last year.
In the last 12 months, the employment level has risen by 15,000 to 2.05 million (76 per cent), while the level of unemployment has dropped by 0.8 per cent to 3.8 per cent during the same period.
Figures from the Manpower Economic Outlook Survey show employers are also growing in confidence, with an overall hiring index of 15 points compared to the national average of 14.
The West Midlands comprises Birmingham, Coventry, Warwickshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, the Black Country and Worcestershire.
There are more than 188,000 businesses in the region, covering a wide range of sectors. Major employers include Fujitsu, Cadbury, IBM, Danone, PepsiCo and Wedgwood. Car manufacturing is recognised as one of the more traditional industries in the region, although the IT sector is today’s major growth area, expanding by 20 per cent year-on-year.
There are major variations in prosperity and growth across the region, which the HSBC regional report cites as an area of concern. Birmingham tends to lead the way for the rest of the region and is becoming renowned for its financial and business services sector.
The workforce is currently 2.46 million strong (74 per cent), while unemployment stands at 5.4 per cent.
John Dyson, branch manager at the Birmingham office of recruitment firm Robert Half, says the service sector, particularly around finance, is booming, although manufacturing, distribution and the public sector are still major employers.
The number of companies recruiting new staff has increased dramatically in the last 12 months and Dyson says the upturn, which has grown from almost nothing last year, has led to fierce competition for talent.
“The region’s job market will also be very attractive to experienced HR staff. Employers are recruiting and need high-quality HR professionals as a result. The West Midlands is experiencing a lot of growth and companies are relocating here,” he adds.
Living in the region
Figures from the East Midlands show much room for improvement, with just three of the county or unitary authority areas scoring above the national average number for GCSE A-C passes.
At vocational level, the picture is much brighter, especially in the West Midlands, which has a broad mix of workforce skills. The Midlands has 18 universities.
The East Midlands’ most southerly county, Northamptonshire, is just 50 miles from London, with easy access to the motorway network via the M1. It’s also served by the East Midlands Airport in Derbyshire.
The West Midlands has two airports, in Coventry and Birmingham, and is well connected to national and regional rail services. It also has more motorways than any other region.
The East Midlands is home to a number of international sports venues, including the National Sports Centre in Loughborough and the National Ice Centre in Nottingham.
It is also rich in medieval history. Birmingham is officially the UK’s second city and offers a wide range of great shopping, culture and nightlife.
According to figures from the Land Registry, the overall average price of a home in the region is 151,405 in the East and 159,202 in the West. In the East Midlands, a semi-detached house will cost 128,255, while the average flat will be worth 109,000.
The average costs for the same type of properties in the West Midlands are 141,469 and 116,917 respectively.
HR contacts and local information
– The West Midlands development agency: www.advantagewm.co.uk
– The East Midlands development agency: www.emda.org.uk
– CIPD regional branches: Northamptonshire: www.cipd.co.uk/Branches/FindYourBranch/Branch/341.htm
– Coventry and Warwickshire: http://branchwebs.cipd.co.uk/coventry/
– Leicestershire: http://branchwebs.cipd.co.uk/leicester/
– Derby and Nottinghamshire: http://branchwebs.cipd.co.uk/derby/
– Birmingham: http://branchwebs.cipd.co.uk/birmingham/
– Black Country: http://branchwebs.cipd.co.uk/blackcountry/
– North Staffordshire: http://branchwebs.cipd.co.uk/nstaffs/
Company profile: Macildowie associates
Based: Nottingham, Leicester and Birmingham
Finance and HR recruitment company Macildowie Associates is based primarily in Nottingham but has several other offices around the region.
Chief executive Paul Macildowie has worked in the region for 16 years following stints in Bristol and London.
Although he admits to missing the buzz of London, he believes the region has plenty to offer employers and HR professionals looking to move to the area.
“The main difference is that there’s only a handful of really big companies. And in the recruitment sector, you have to make sure that you are dealing with them because if you aren’t, you will struggle.”
In terms of recruitment, the area is currently suffering from similar problems to the rest of the UK, with skills shortages and recruitment difficulties the primary concern for most organisations.
“There are general nationwide skill shortages in certain HR roles, such as compensations and bene-fits, but these tend to be based in head offices. In finance,there are definite skill shortages in all sectors mainly due to under recruitment and over-zealous redundancies.
“Also, the lack of recruitment at trainee levels by major organi-sations is now manifesting itself in a shortfall of accountants coming out of the system at the right time,” he says.
Move here for…
75 per cent of the UK is within five hours driving distance.
The economy has a good mix of employers and industries.
West Midlands staff costs are 13 per cent lower than in London, accoring to the West Midlands Development Agency.
But beware of…
Poor GCSE pass rate across the East Midlands.
Despite an extensive road network, peak-time traffic is extremely busy.
18 universities – a blessing and a curse?