Companies facing tough recruitment battle in booming jobs market

Job Centre Plus, Ipswich. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The job market in Suffolk and Essex is booming - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Job hunters in Suffolk and Essex are facing a "unique situation" with a booming employee-led market, according to a regional recruitment expert. 

Robyn Holmes, managing director of family-run recruitment agency Prime Appointments, which has offices in Sudbury and Witham, said some businesses will have to change to attract staff. 

Job vacancies reached a record high in the last quarter of 2021, although the Office for National Statistics said they are now growing more slowly than they did last summer.

In December last year there were 29.5 million people across the UK in work, which is up 409,000 on the pre-pandemic level of February 2020. 

Unemployment fell slightly to 4.1% across the UK. 

Mrs Holmes said among roles in particular demand in Suffolk were welders, high-end mechanical engineers, assembly workers, production operatives and pump engineers. 

Robyn Holmes, managing director of Prime Appointments, says the situation with the jobs market is 'unique'

Robyn Holmes, managing director of Prime Appointments, says the situation with the jobs market is 'unique' - Credit: Prime Appointments

She said: "It is phenomenally busy really. I think in Essex and Suffolk, but Suffolk particularly, we're just getting jobs in across all sorts of sectors. 

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"This is a really unique situation, we've never been in this situation before, when it's been so much of an employee-led market. 

"That's the thing that is going to make it a tough year for businesses. There's going to be all those jobs out there, but the ones that are draconian, as I call them, and won't change will probably find it the hardest."

Mrs Holmes said she believes that due to the coronavirus pandemic, people are now looking at the whole employment package before accepting a new role. 

"One of the big things we're noticing is that with some companies their wages might be a little bit out of date now, inflation is having a big impact on the market," she said. 

"National minimum wage is about to go up from April 1, National Insurance is going up, there are lots of other factors affecting it and trying to find staff when you're still got the same rates of pay is very difficult. People's heads are being turned. 

"There's tons of jobs out there but I think people now considering the whole package. There are staff out there but most of the staff are employed now because of low unemployment, therefore it's got to be an attractive reason to want to move, that's the biggest thing we're seeing. 

"This is what I'm saying to clients all the time, if you want to attract new staff, you've got to look at your own benefit package and you've got to look at how you set yourself out against your competitors."

Despite a healthy jobs market, there are fears rising prices could lead to a cost of living squeeze worse than some economists have predicted. 

Following recent rises in inflation, in November real wages fell on the year in the UK for the first time since July 2020.

The Suffolk Chamber of Commerce said it is working with businesses to ensure future needs of companies are met.

Paul Simon of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce. Picture: Paul Simon

Paul Simon of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce. Picture: Paul Simon - Credit: Archant

Paul Simon, head of communications and campaigns, said: “Suffolk Chamber’s own research into its members’ experiences bears out the reality behind this ONS data.

"In our latest quarterly business survey, every single one of the manufacturers who responded reported that they were having difficulty in finding staff, with 86% of service companies likewise affected.

"While many companies are trying to address this shortage by boosting their investment in training and more effectively striving to retain staff, there are some sectors, not least in certain parts of the manufacturing and agricultural/horticultural arenas, where only a short-term relaxation in immigration rules will effectively address their headcount requirements.

“In the longer-term, Suffolk Chamber is looking forward to working even more closely with public sector organisations and training providers through the employer-led local skills improvement plan to ensure that the future skills needs of Suffolk businesses, especially in the growth sectors associated with net zero, health and social care and ports and logistics, are clearly identified and met in an effective and timely manner to avoid the damaging impacts of major shortages.”