Recruiter heads North for the latest regional forum

Manchester's new reputation as a hotbed of enterprise has brought a knock-on effect for recruitment, as Ben Jones discovered when he attended Recruiter's latest regional forum.


Those who suggest "it's grim up North" clearly choose not to embrace the boom surrounding Manchester's recruitment industry.
For too long, the North of England has been synonymous with salt-of-the-earth types who enjoy nothing more than a day's hard, manual labour for a good, honest crust.
This rather patronising view is set for a radical redress. Manchester is now enjoying its time in the warm glow of commercial success.
At the latest Recruiter regional forum round-table discussion, recruiters suggested that Manchester's recently-forged reputation as a hotbed of enterprise had brought about a knock-on effect for recruitment, with the construction and finance sectors reaping most of the benefits.
"If you've lived in Manchester over the past five years you only have to look around to see the enormous growth and regeneration which is still happening," said Karen Mitchell, operations director of call centre recruiter Teleresources.
She added that a number of her clients with call centres in the South of England were looking to re-locate to the North, due to cheaper costs.
The cost of office space is a key reason for businesses wanting to move. Mitul Modi, commercial director of Exceli, said that a central Manchester location did not necessarily mean higher costs.
"My old office cost me £10,000 per month. Now I'm paying £2,000 per month. I'm right in the heart of Chinatown, and I've got space to grow. "



A lot going for the city


Modi added that a number of "pull and push" factors were helping recruiters to move from London.
"The quality of life is good here, and you can be at your desk in six minutes if you live in the city centre."
However, with the centre of Manchester still very expensive in terms of the cost of office space, many businesses were looking to the M62 corridor for a base - places such as Widnes and Warrington .
The property industry is booming, and recruiters are enjoying its spoils. Lisa Learoyd, director at property industry recruiter Judd Farris, said that her firm was unique in that it had a regeneration team actually based in Manchester, dealing with house building and planning consultancies.
"It keeps it interesting to know what is happening," Learoyd said.
"A lot of people were coming up here from London and investing. There's a lot more inward investment and flats shooting up."


The number of new businesses springing up across Manchester means that the construction sector is another to benefit.


"I would say that the most buoyant market at the moment in the Manchester area is construction, because of all the new builds," added Pete McConnell, national sales manager at Eden Brown.
"It doesn't just create builders, it has a knock-on effect. It's such a huge market now that it's opened out to many different areas. All you can see is crane after crane."
McConnell added that Manchester's easy accessibility - a strong motorway network and good public transport links - was a key reason why businesses were moving north.
"If people want to expand, they tend to do it here rather than in London, and that's purely because of cost," Mitchell explained, pointing to the example of the BBC. This is to move some departments to Manchester over the next five years.
Some sectors have benefited from having a regional focus, added Mitchell. "The call centre market has been around in Manchester for years," she said.
"There's not the space in London to build a call centre for 600 people. Even if you build it on the outskirts, you've got a very small catchment area. Building in Manchester gives people more options."
Having an accent when working in a contact centre was actually an advantage, claimed McConnell.
"Whenever I've dealt with call centre recruitment, people like to hear an accent. They feel it's friendly."
Michael Quinn, commerce and industry manager at Badenoch and Clark, said that Manchester had benefited from the growth of 'shared service centres', where businesses put all their financial functions under one roof.
"There's quite a few of them in the Manchester area, and they're a good source of business for people such as ourselves.
"The downside is that there's only a certain salary level which those kinds of jobs will pay, so there's a drain on candidates for those jobs."
A natural spin-off from big-business using Manchester as a base was the number of senior positions headquartered in the city.


Of appeal to the top level


"More senior positions are coming up here," Learoyd said. "This is down to flexible employment - people can fly up and stay in a 'crash pad', and fly home for the weekend."
Even lower-level workers were making the move up north.
Mitchell added: "If you are going to move a consultant from London, they will come to Manchester. There's so many reasons to live here. Manchester has a lot to offer now."
Another trend which has come into being in recent years is the tendency for candidates to quit their permanent jobs in search of more lucrative contracting deals, particularly in the public sector.
"We can never say to somebody 'hand your notice in' because it's most likely that they won't have a job to go to, but they finish anyway, knowing they will get something," says Eden Brown's McConnell.
"Most people who do this can go from earning £18,000 to £40,000.
"The three key questions that people ask are: 'Where is it? How long does it last? And can I work a four-day week?'"
The recruiters argued that "sharking" from competitors - the practice of deliberately undercutting them on price - was making life difficult.
The practice of the candidate going to many different agencies looking for the same job makes this more prevalent.
McConnell explained that the use of mobile phones was banned in most offices Eden Brown supplied to, in an effort to stop candidates receiving up to five offers a day from different agencies.
Up to two or three weeks before the end of their contract, they will be getting offers "because they know the work is there for them," he said.
Modi said that there could be a vast difference in commission rates from one competitor to another.
"We charge between 35 and 40%. There are some who charge only 15%, but then they only give 15% of the service.
"Not everyone sticks to the same kind of process or ethics really," Modi said. "It's frustrating. It's difficult for us to explain to clients that we offer value for our service."
Manchester is clearly a city on the up. It buzzes with the vibrancy of new business opportunities, and nowhere are these more apparent than in the recruitment sector.

For those fed up with the London rat race, Manchester is only a short train or plane ride away.


 







THE RECRUITER REGIONAL FORUM

The Recruiter regional forum gave five recruitment professionals the chance to speak about the main issues affecting the industry in the North-West. They were: Pete McConnell, national sales manager, Eden Brown; Mitul Modi, commercial director, Xceli; Karen Mitchell, operation director, Teleresources; Michael Quinn, commerce and industry manager, Badenoch & Clark; and Lisa Learoyd, director, Judd Farris.

The event, which took place at the Malmaison Hotel in Manchester on Thursday 10 August, was sponsored by JPA Recruitment to Recruitment and Recruitment Software Solutions.
Top