Careerfocus – Midlands

A region by region look at working in HR in the UK. This month we look at
the Midlands
Edited by Ross Wigham e-mail:

The right mix keeps the Midlands centre stage

The Midlands region covers a huge
area of the country containing a diverse range of people, towns and cities.

Because of the scope of the area most government bodies and
reports split the region into East and West, as both have separate economic
development agencies.

According to the Government Office for the West Midlands the
area accounts for 9 per cent of the country’s population with around 5.3
million residents. Of this Birmingham has by far the largest number of people
with around 2.5 million living there.

The West Midlands contributed £63.5bn to the UK’s gross
domestic profit in 1999 with manufacturing still the largest industry in the

The current unemployment rate is 5.6 per cent or 144,000
people, which represents a slight fall from a year ago.

This year has seen a sharp rise in the number of service,
agriculture and construction jobs, but as in other parts of the country
manufacturing employment has been hit hard.

The East Midlands has a population of just under 4.2 million,
although just under 40 per cent live in towns of under 10,000, making it one of
the UK’s more rural areas. The area has a wide variety of different industries
although rates of growth lag behind the UK, with wide variations in economic
performance across the region.

The level of unemployment as of September 2003 is below the
national average at 4.6 per cent or 98,000 people. The seasonally adjusted
claimant count rate in September 2003 was 2.9 per cent, unchanged from August
2003, and up 0.1 percentage point since September 2002.

John Kenny, a change manager at Boots and chair of the
Leicestershire branch of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
says the area has a good mix of employers and sectors.

"Apart from the public sector there isn’t one huge
employer so that means there are lots of different types of roles available.

"There’s a reasonably stable jobs market and although
there are some skills shortages it’s nothing on the scale of the problem in the
South East," he explains.

Kenny says that although the whole transport infrastructure is
ideal for staff who travel around the country, the local road network does need

The large number of universities that are based in the Midlands
region take in thousands of students every year and produces a massive supply
of graduates including those with masters degrees in HR.

Kenny says the demand for HR courses and the popularity of the
role is increasing across the region.

"All the courses we offer are normally fully subscribed
and HR as a career choice is becoming more popular. It seems that the
profession is becoming more attractive as a career and there are lots of
opportunities to find work, especially at a junior level," he says.

Living in the region

Education: The Midlands has an
impressive list of universities which prove popular with both British and
European students alike, because of their location in the centre of the
country. At school level, class sizes are below average in the East Midlands,
although pupil/teacher ratios are slightly higher than the national average and
the number of successful students at GCSE level (A-C) is also lower than the UK
standard. In the West Midlands class sizes are closer to the average, although
GCSE passes are still below the UK average. Transport: The region is a traffic
hotspot with an average daily motor flow of 87,000 (compared to an average of
80,700 across England). However the same report from the Office for National
Statistics shows that it takes the majority of people less than 20 minutes to
get to work. Aside from the this, the area has superb transport links,
including major rail stations and Birmingham International and East Midlands

Culture/lifestyle: Being in the centre of the country
has obvious benefits for travel and work with the ability to get to most parts
of the country quickly an obvious bonus. Apart from this, the legendary
Sherwood Forest (home of Robin Hood) is known throughout the world. The area
has a diverse mix of small market towns, rural villages and Birmingham,
Britain’s second city, and has more canals than Venice.

Housing: House prices across the Midlands outperformed
the average UK growth across all types of property. Parts of both the East and
West Midlands have also been highlighted as hot property areas by Nationwide.
The latest figures show overall growth of more than 20 per cent, with an
average price of £118,028 In the east and 126,888 in the west. A flat in the
region costs around £82,312 (East) or £81,495 (West) with larger semi-detached
homes costing £106,753 (East) £121,615 (West).

Company profile
Wragge & Co

Staff: 1,000
Based: Birmingham

The Midlands-based law firm has been in the UK’s second city
since its formation more than 150 years ago. Partner Jonathan Chamberlain has
worked there for about five years and says he wouldn’t swap it for anywhere

"As an area it’s a lot of fun and there’s an excellent
working atmosphere," he explains.

The main office is right in the heart of the city centre and
Chamberlain claims the location makes the working day much more convenient for

"I used to work in London, but having moved here I think
Birmingham is a fantastic place to work. It’s a large city, but on a much more
human level than London.

"It’s also much more convenient than being in a business
park because you have all the amenities, including world-class shopping
facilities a few minutes from your desk," he says.

The transport infrastructure is also far better than elsewhere
and Chamberlain can now do a 25-mile trek to work in less time than it used to
take him to get from North to central London.

"The quality of life is far better and although we get
paid less than those in London, you can’t put a price on that."

Move here for…


Right in the middle of the country it’s perfectly located for
people that travel around Britain.

Asian culture

Places like Birmingham and Leicester offer huge cultural


Birmingham, Aston Villa, Leicester and Wolves are all in the
Premier League while the West Bromwich Albion team is riding high in division

But beware of…

The coast

Or rather the lack of it. Beach lovers will be disappointed as
most of the region is landlocked.


If the thought of staying in bed until three in the afternoon
or paying for a pint with a cheque offends you stay away. The region has a huge
student population.

HR contacts and local information

Leicestershire CIPD

Birmingham CIPD

Nottingham and Derbyshire CIPD

East Midlands Socpo regional chair

West Midlands Socpo

HR directors club

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