Jobs market: Recession fears take their toll

The current economic slowdown is having an impact on the jobs market for training and L&D specialists but, experts say, the picture is mixed and some sectors are faring better than others.

Growing fears of a recession are starting to have a negative effect on the number of job vacancies available for learning and development (L&D) professionals, according to recruitment experts.

But while the slowdown in the economy is causing some employers to be tentative about recruiting trainers, the uncertainty is also creating opportunities elsewhere.

Recruitment freeze

At specialist L&D recruitment agency Essence Resourcing, managing director Paul McMurtie has seen more companies freezing recruitment on training positions.

“What I’m finding more and more is that the large blue-chip companies with an internal training department are not cutting jobs. Rather, they are not hiring replacements when someone leaves,” he says.

The people “most prone to feeling the pinch” are those who deliver generalist soft skills training because this area is not seen as contributing directly to an organisation’s bottom line, he adds.

“Employers are not hacking away at L&D wholesale but they do want trainers to be able to justify their budgets return on investment is key. Sales training is still buoyant, as are roles where areas like recruitment and retention training can be shown to have a positive effect.”

And while McMurtie says trainers with good skill sets will “always be in demand”, head of HR recruitment at agency Beament Leslie Thomas (BLT) Paul Grafton reports he is now seeing some good trainers searching for work.

“It’s quiet out there but there is no pattern as to where the tail-off in vacancies is happening. We are still recruiting across a wide range of sectors,” he says.

Interims slowdown

The interim market is also experiencing a slowdown, says Jo Skipper, head of interim recruitment at HR recruitment firm MDH. She says this is particularly pronounced at the senior end of the market for those L&D interims who typically command around £350 to £500 a day.

She adds: “Twelve months ago, many organisations used interims for specific programmes – be it employee engagement or retention – but today companies are thinking more carefully at how they structure.”

And where employers are using interim trainers, many are looking at their own networks, according to Skipper – whether these include interim trainers they have used before or ex-employees who went freelance.

“They are using people they have had a relationship before, which is good news for established people. But those venturing into interim for the first time need to know it’s a buyer’s market,” she adds.

Demand in some areas

However, there are still areas of the L&D sector where demand remains strong, according to Kate Fisher, an area manager at recruitment agency Reed Training Professionals, who says there is a healthy market for trainers working in the welfare-to-work sector.

She reports no regional variation in the job market over the past six months or so, and says pay is buoyant, although some clients are securing candidates at the lower end of the advertised pay bracket.

For McMurtie, another area of the market that is holding up is compliance training – for legal or health and safety reasons – where organisations continue to recruit at the same level as a year ago.

“Companies have to replace these people, so the situation remains unchanged,” he says.

In some cases, the trend towards reducing the size of internal training departments has also triggered an upswing in the number of vacancies from external training providers, McMurtie reports. He says that to secure a job in this sector candidates must show they have had experience in consultancy-type roles.

“This could have come from working for other external providers or internally working in a business partner-type role. The important thing is to demonstrate you have a full understanding of what the business needs,” he adds.

He has also seen some companies expand their L&D department in a bid to ride out the economic climate.

“It’s an aggressive response to an uncertain situation. They are recruiting trainers to improve their people as a strategy to help them beat the competition,” he says.

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