East Anglia is experiencing a building boom on a par with London. Hays Montrose's Robert Smith explains how top candidates are cherry-picking the best jobs
Cambridge has seen massive increases in house prices recently, mirroring London's inflated property market. Construction firm Kajima is running a contemporary accommodation project in the city and has already sold a number of apartments - no small feat when one-bedroom flats start at £300,000. Hays has supplied a large number of permanent staff for the luxury residential project, including site agents, project managers, QSs and senior engineers. Salaries are certainly on a par with London, which is fitting when the cost of living is increasingly similar to the capital.
Among the largest projects in the region is a scheme, currently at the planning stage, to demolish and rebuild the Grand Arcade shopping development in Cambridge city centre, at a cost of £510m, by 2007.
Other projects being built in the area are a Travelodge, various chain retail outlets and a Cineworld. Amec is also providing student accommodation with the West Residents' Project: two apartment blocks and a creche worth £20m.
Many of the top housing contractors such as Wimpey, Bovis Lend Lease and David Wilson Homes are involved in Cambourne, a new community that is being developed to the west of Cambridge. They are recruiting for local housing professionals on both high-spec and social housing. In addition, an £8.6m hotel is being constructed, as well as gyms and office blocks. A joint services building worth £4.6m will provide a police station, dental surgery, pharmacist, pubs and a fish and chip shop.
JT Chambers is also building a primary school for the young families anticipated to snap up property in the village.
The new prison in Peterborough is a £296m PFI project, and the first mixed-sex prison in the UK. With prisoners to be moved in by the end of next summer, construction professionals are in high demand through main contractor Interserve.
Another major project is Norwich's mixed-use development Chapelfields, situated in the heart of the city. Currently boasting the most cranes per square metre in the UK, it will house the country's largest House of Fraser. Site managers, QSs, engineers through to shopfitters and joiners are being sought by Bovis Lend Lease for the project. Further south, Skanska is to start work shortly on an army barracks, to be the size of a small village, in Woodbridge, Suffolk.
Charles Lidbury, a recruitment consultant who supplies construction professionals to major projects in the region, says: "Site managers can earn from £30-32,000 on civil and structural projects, about £35,000 on housing and £35,000+ on commercial developments. Project managers can secure up to £40,000 on civil and housing and £45,000 on commercial projects."
A typical applicant recently placed was a site manager with 10 years' experience in a managerial role, who commanded a basic salary of £32,500 plus excellent benefits. "The demand is so high we could have placed him 10 times over," says Lidbury.
There are also some unusual opportunities in the region. A wealthy sheikh is building stables for a cutting-edge equestrian training facility in Cambridgeshire. "We recently supplied a project manager to them, and the salary and benefits were excellent," says Lidbury.
"Candidates with a good, solid background are finding they can cherry-pick the best jobs in the region," says Richard Lescott, East Anglia regional manager for Hays Montrose. "We are arranging three or four interviews a day for good-quality applicants, and the market shows no signs of slowing."