Career focus

A region by region look at working in HR in the UK. This month we look at
the North West

Inward investment on the rise as area adapts

The latest research paints a healthy picture for the North West. Employment
is steadily growing, and unemployment has been shrinking fairly consistently
since 2001.

In July 2003, the seasonally-adjusted employment rate was up by 1.7 per cent
to 73.6 per cent, with unemployment down by 0.6 per cent to 4.9 per cent.

The gross domestic product for the area was £75.8bn in 1998, but this figure
has declined per head against the national average and is now below most of the
other regions.

Business start-ups are steadily increasing, and the DTI has published and
funded a business strategy for the North West – Opportunity for all in a world
of change – backed by a £913m Government investment to improve local transport
and meet the needs of business.

The economy is swinging slightly towards high or medium technology and
service roles, although manufacturing is still a major player.

Although many jobs have been lost in this sector, it is still a huge
employer, and the Manufacturing Institute recently presented a business
strategy to the Government.

Bryan Gray, chairman of the Northwest Development Agency, says:
"Manufacturing is a key economic driver in the area, employing 430,000
people and accounting for 25 per cent of GDP, which is significantly more than
the national average of 20 per cent."

Chris Gorton, North West Chair of the Recruitment and Employment
Confederation (REC), has 20 years experience in the region, and says the area
has never had a more diverse mix of firms.

"There is a strong economy around the M62 and M65 corridors, but manufacturing
and chemicals have seen some major lay-offs," he says. "The food
industry and service sector are particularly buoyant and are the real growth
areas for employment."

Lynn Clarke, chair of the Manchester branch of the Chartered Institute of
Personnel and Development (CIPD) , says the region is experiencing a huge
upturn in investment.

"Manchester especially is really buoyant at the moment. There are lots
of new buildings and companies, which means more opportunities. The
regeneration that’s taking place is having a knock-on effect on
employment," she says.

Clarke, whose CIPD branch is one of the largest in the country, believes
that all the changes in the region present great opportunities for HR.

"It’s a good place for HR people to build a career, and I think they
are being attracted from other areas because of all the investment," she
says. "It’s got one of the best mixes of people and industry outside of

Because of all the restructuring around manufacturing and engineering
companies, there are also many other roles for HR.

"There are lots of opportunities for transformation and organisational
change specialists as local firms try and adapt to economic changes,"
Clarke says.

Living in the region


For school-age education, the region is around the average
level for the UK. The pupil to teacher ratios are 22.3 at primary schools and
16.3 at secondary schools, compared with national averages of 22.0 and 16.4

The average class size is 26.1 in primary schools and 21.8 in
secondary ones, which is broadly in line with the rest of the country (26.3 and
21.9). GCSE pass rates are slightly lower than average for both boys and girls,
while 12.9 per cent of the working population have a degree-level education.


The region is served by two main airports – Manchester
International and Liverpool John Lennon – and has major train stations in most
areas. 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 and the Trans-Pennine rail lines travel east to west. Despite all
this, there is still a high level of congestion, particularly on the roads.


TV personality Lloyd Grossman, who acts as Regional
Commissioner for English Heritage in the North West, describes the region as
enchanting. He moved to the area 25 years ago, and is quick to cite Liverpool,
Manchester, Chester, Lancaster and Preston as some of the best cities in the
country. The area boasts plenty of history (particularly Roman) and
countryside, mixed with vibrant cities and a working coastline.


House prices grew by 24.4 per cent in the second quarter of
this year, bringing the average price to £109,027. Despite the current boom, it
is still much cheaper than buying a home in the South. According to the
Nationwide, buyers in the North West can expect to pay an average of £171,620
for a detached property, £110,637 for a semi, £77,236 for a terrace or £76,007
for a flat.

HR contacts and local information

HR directors club

Socpo North West regional chair

Northwest Development Agency

CIPD Manchester branch

CIPD Merseyside branch

Company profile

The Bollington Group
Staff: 100
Based: Cheshire

The insurance broker and financial services firm has been based
in East Cheshire since the business was formed. The head office lies at the
edge of the peak district in a deliberately rural location.

HR director Phillip Jones says the location is perfect for
staff and offers a great working environment.

"The main advantage is the beautiful environment and the
hillside air. We’ve got the best of both worlds, because we’re essentially in
the countryside, but also very close to Manchester," he says.

The area also offers access to a huge pool of potential talent
because of its proximity to several major cities.

"It gives us access to potential staff from major cities
such as Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield," he adds.

"We also have a main train line, we’re near Manchester
airport and we have some excellent local transport.

"I used to live and work in London, but looking back now,
I think ‘what a nightmare’. The smog and all the traffic certainly don’t help.
From an HR perspective, I think people perform better in the sort of
environment that we have."

Move here for…

The future

Manchester is recognised as a vibrant city, and Liverpool is
the new European city of culture


Blackpool, with its annual illuminations, is tipped to become
the Las Vegas of the UK


Home of Merseybeat and the Manchester scene, the area is rich
in musical heritage and is the birth place of the Beatles

But beware of…

The weather

The North West and Manchester in particular is renowned for its
wet weather


A no-go area for sports-haters with a spread of top football
teams, Aintree race track and the spiritual home of rugby league


There are still opportunities, but the industry is experiencing
a downturn.

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