Career focus: North West

Manufacturing output keeps area on the map

The North West has traditionally been one of the most important regions in the UK for helping shape our economy, identity, culture and skills base. The historically and culturally important cities of Liverpool and Manchester are two of the most famous names on the British map and are internationally renowned.

In population terms it’s the largest region outside the South East, with 6.77 million people living in Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Cumbria and Merseyside. The home of the industrial revolution now has a varied mix of industry sectors with regeneration a key factor in the region’s economy.

It has a regional economy worth more than £93.1bn and is experiencing growing inward investment from Europe and the rest of the world.

The North West Regional Development Agency has designated 25 strategic sites to encourage the development of knowledge-based industries as part of the regeneration effort.

As a result, the North West has won more Royal Institute of British Architects awards for architecture than any other region and the workforce now has a Gross Value Added (GVA) figure of £13,755 per head. GVA measures individual and industry contributions to the economy.

The area is injecting huge amounts of investment into modernising the economy and the North West is now a major region for digital industries, employing around 60,000 people in a market worth £6bn.

Tourism is also becoming increasingly important and in 2001 the area attracted 1.5 million overseas visitors who injected over £436m into the local economy.

However, manufacturing is still an important part of the local economy and data from the North West Regional Assembly shows that the chemical, textile, engineering, food and drink industries account for 75 per cent of the region’s output.

Manufacturing accounts for a higher proportion of GVA in the North West (25 per cent) than the UK as a whole.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that employment is continuing to rise but the overall situation has not changed significantly over the last 12 months.

Data for the three months to July 2004 shows a seasonally adjusted employment rate of 73.9 per cent or 3.13 million, up by 0.2 per cent on last year. The number of unemployed people has dropped by 0.5 per cent in the last year to 4.4 per cent or 144,000. The claimant count also remained stable at 2.8 per cent.

However, the Manpower Economic Outlook Survey paints a less positive picture of the jobs market, with companies in the North West the least optimistic in the country. Employers in the region reported negative hiring intentions with a rating of -1 compared to the national average of +14.

HSBC bank’s business economic unit also predicts challenging times for the region, citing poor productivity and a low income per head as fundamental obstacles to long-term growth.

Living in the region


More than 181,300 students attend the region’s 15 universities and higher education institutions. The North West has 62 further education colleges and 3,810 schools. The region also scores well for early years education with 97 per cent of three- and four-year-olds receiving some sort of schooling compared to the national average of 92 per cent.


The region is served by two main airports – Manchester International and Liverpool John Lennon – and has several major train stations. Manchester and Blackpool also operate local tram services.

The west coast main line and the M6 form the main north-south routes in the region along with the M62. Virgin Trains has recently cut journey times between London and Manchester with new tilting trains. However, despite all this, there is still a high level of congestion, particularly on the region’s network of roads.


The North West region has 420 sites of special scientific interest, 31 nature reserves and three national parks. In the past year almost £100m has been invested in new facilities for the region and Liverpool has been awarded European Capital of Culture status for 2008. These developments helped the area attract 1.5 million overseas visitors in 2001.


According to official figures from the Government’s Land Registry the overall average price for a home in the North West is £122,260. The average cost of a detached house in the region is £224,508 with a semi-detached costing £126,164. The average terrace costs £79,403 and the average flat costs £117,312. The most expensive area is Cheshire with an overall average price of £169,758.

HR contacts and local information

Northwest Development Agency:

CIPD Manchester branch:

CIPD Merseyside, North Cheshire and North Wales branch:

CIPD Lancashire branch:

CIPD Cumbria branch:

Tourist information:

North West Regional Assembly:

Company profile

Wigan and Leigh College

Staff: 800

Based: Wigan

Angela Drury, a management trainer and chair of the Lancashire CIPD branch, has worked at the college since 1997, but has spent all her career in the North West. She has worked at various places across the region and believes it has a lot to offer HR practitioners.

“There are plenty of opportunities in this part of the country. At the college we’re halfway between Liverpool and Manchester so there’s a good talent pool and lots to do.

“The regional economy has a good mix of industries with manufacturing and processing companies as well as a healthy retail and service sector. It’s a really pleasant place to work with access to the countryside or coast and good leisure facilities,” she says.

Drury says the biggest concern to most HR people in the area is recruitment and retention, and many organisations struggle to attract new staff.

“The recruitment issue is right at the top of the HR agenda. It’s very difficult to attract good quality staff, especially for entry-level positions. There’s a lot of competition, which makes the labour market very tight, particularly in the private sector.

“Despite this there are good networks for employers and a broad range of HR opportunities.”

Move here for…

The future

Manchester and Liverpool, the European Capital of culture, are two of the country’s most vibrant cities.

The Lake District

One of Britain‘s most popular areas of outstanding natural beauty.

Responsible companies

A recent survey revealed that 90 per cent of senior executives in the region back corporate social responsibility.

But beware of…

The weather

The North West is renowned for its wet weather.

Soccer squabble

Manchester United’s signing of England wonder boy Wayne Rooney has angered Everton fans.

The employment outlook

Employers in the region reported the lowest levels of expected recruitment in the UK.

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