Cooper Lomaz salary survey reveals growing confidence in jobs market

Cooper Lomaz Recruitment managing director Richard Mould, left, and operations director Mark Fletche

Cooper Lomaz Recruitment managing director Richard Mould, left, and operations director Mark Fletcher launch the company�s 2015 Salary Survey. Picture Credit Newsmakers PR - Credit: Jason Bye

Pay rises have become the norm once again in Suffolk and many job candidates are now receiving multiple offers to choose between, according to the annual East Anglia-wide salary survey by independent recruitment firm Cooper Lomaz.

In Essex, meanwhile, many employers are battling to fill higher-paying posts, with the number of candidates looking for work failing to keep pace with vacancies.

The highly-regarded survey harvests statistics from 15,000 professionals in eight key sectors with whom Cooper Lomaz has worked during the past 12 months, providing a comprehensive snapshot of the regional employment scene.

Sectors covered by the survey include Accountancy, Engineering, Food Manufacturing, Information Technology, Oil, Gas & Renewable Energy, Sales & Marketing, Subsea and Supply Chain, with data collected from Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex.

“There are clear signs that the jobs market is moving well again now,” said Cooper Lomaz operations director Mark Fletcher.

The new survey showed the number of vacancies flooding on to the skilled, professional and management role market in which Cooper Lomaz specialises, was currently outstripping the number of people seeking work.

“We identified the start of this trend in last year’s salary survey,” said Mr Fletcher. “In some sectors the situation is now acute. While the number of vacancies has risen significantly, the number of available qualified people has not. In IT and Sales & Marketing the number of candidates has decreased. People seeking employment are getting multiple job offers and recruiters are having to work much harder and smarter to fill positions.”

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This year’s survey uncovers a wave of optimism surging through the employment market, with 53% of firms having expanded during 2014 and a similar number expecting to grow this year. Meanwhile, six out of 10 staff reported salary increases in 2014 and two-thirds are expecting another boost this year. “That is a real measure of the confidence we are seeing returning,” said Mr Fletcher.

Cooper Lomaz, whose clients in the region include Anglia Ruskin University, Associated British Foods, Bernard Matthews, Delphi Diesel, Essex County Council, Huawei, ISG, Mizkan and Smart 421, has offices in Bury St Edmunds, Lowestoft and Norwich.

It says that the Oil, Gas & Renewables field remains the top-paying sector, followed by IT and Engineering. The survey highlights severe skills shortages within the Accountancy sector, with unprecedented numbers of vacancies in professional services and an increased demand for newly-qualified accountants.

Engineering vacancies are up by 50%, driven by encouraging growth in UK manufacturing. The sector is challenged by a shortage of skilled professionals. Cooper Lomaz says there has always been a big demand for mechanical engineering graduates and this is increasingly being matched by a demand for graduates with electronic engineering degrees.

A shortage of graduates choosing careers in the Food & Drink sector has led to gaps, particularly in middle management roles. Candidates looking for work are getting multiple job offers. Cooper Lomaz advises client companies to concentrate on giving candidates the best possible application process, as that can tip the balance in their favour.

IT businesses which contracted during the recession are working hard to return to, or exceed, previous capacity. With a decreasing number of candidates in the jobs pool, employers are not only competing for new staff, but also working hard to retain existing talent. In-house web developers are increasingly important in all sectors for companies which do significant business via the internet and need a good online platform.

Employers in the Oil Gas & Renewables field are working in an increasingly global marketplace, with locally-based companies having to work harder than ever to attract the right people. “Winning” companies are those which display most flexibility and responsiveness, says Cooper Lomaz.

The Subsea sector is one area which bucks the general trend with the number of available qualified candidates having grown. Supervisors with experience of heavy work are in demand. Now enjoying a return of business confidence, the Sales & Marketing sector is challenged by an historic lack of investment in training junior candidates which has led to gaps at mid-level management today and a diminishing supply of talent for brand manager and national account manager roles. Journalists with degrees or NCTJ qualifications are highly sought after, it says.

Increasing opportunities throughout the Supply Chain, coupled with an insufficient influx of fresh talent in recent years means there are more vacancies than candidates. Logistics and transport have been particularly hard hit. Cooper Lomaz tells clients they must act fast to secure good candidates. Degree qualification is less important that a good work ethic, communication skills and a willingness to learn.

To keep pace with burgeoning business confidence and a doubling of the number of vacancies advertised on its website, Cooper Lomaz has expanded its own workforce over the past 12 months.

“We have also extended our reach over the past year, acquiring new clients throughout the UK and internationally,” said Mr Fletcher.

Traditionally focused on the Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire graduate, management and professional skills jobs market, Cooper Lomaz has rapidly added Essex to its list of core counties and is currently expanding into Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire, where it has acquired some significant new clients.

“One of the challenges our industry is facing is that companies haven’t hired enough graduates over the past five, six or seven years,” said Mr Fletcher. “As people move on through age or promotion, companies are experiencing a skills shortage. There is a real need for employers to be willing to train younger people. They also need to work hard to keep their best employees.”

The knock-on effect is that candidates are being more “picky”, said Mr Fletcher. “A few years ago it was important just to have a job. Now candidates can pick and choose between job offers, the ‘nice-to-haves’ are increasingly important – the commute distance, the work-life balance and the option of doing some work from home,” said Mr Fletcher. “Companies which are flexible and accommodating about such things have the greatest success in recruiting the best people.

“2014 has seen a significant switch from an employer-led jobs market to a candidate-led one. Cooper Lomaz is actively encouraging client companies to recognise this change of balance.”

Mr Fletcher said a key factor in retaining staff was ensuring staff feel valued by their manager and that their points of view are taken into account. More than a third (36%) of survey respondents highlighted an interesting role as the most important factor in job satisfaction, with one in five (20%) choosing career development and one in seven (14%) saying good salary.