In this month's regional forecast, Robert Smith of Hays Montrose takes a look at the state of the job market in the south-west of England
When you think of the South-West you tend to picture rugged coastlines, beautiful beaches, pretty villages with friendly locals and Rick Stein cooking up a bonanza. Yet look closer and you see the south-west is emerging as more than just a pleasant holiday destination.

Not only is the area with its superb transport links becoming a very attractive place in which to live and work, but a number of new projects are emerging in the region.

Iain Dennis, regional director of Hays Montrose South West, has noticed that certain areas are experiencing more growth than others. "Our biggest growth is in the Hays Montrose Plymouth office, which covers Devon and Cornwall," says Dennis. "The interest generated by the Eden Project, along with various spin-off housing projects, has created the recent recruitment growth. This is backed up by high activity from major contractors such as Bluestone and Mowlem, who have offices in the area." And the government is also investing heavily in Cornwall, targeted as an Objective One Funding area, which provides more impetus to the jobs market.

Hays Montrose Plymouth has had a 7.5% increase in the number of jobs registered over the first six months of the year compared with the same period last year. This has been good news for construction workers in the area and has meant applicants, such as site managers, surveyors and labourers, have been in demand.

Major projects, such as the redevelopment of Tamar Science Park, which includes a £10m medical school due to start on site this summer, will mean noticeably boosted employment in the area. And the Hays Montrose Plymouth office has seen salaries increase in construction considerably over the last two years. For example, the salary of a quantity surveyor (no age in particular) has increased from £23-25K to £28-30K, while the salary of an architectural technician has risen from £18-20K to £23-25K.

Moving up to Cheltenham, the new GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) is being built at a cost of £330m, although the majority of this cost is for the mechanical and electrical fit-out. The huge workforce required for the construction has created a major shortage of skilled workers, such as ground workers, carpenters, pipe fitters and electricians, thus driving salaries up. For example, a 26-year-old electrician, with a JIB ticket, could earn up to 50% more than the standard rate.

Bristol continues to remain a strong area. A recent vacancy filled in Bristol was a quantity surveyor on the £250m Port Marine residential and mixed-use project in Portishead. The site is one of the largest of its kind, with designs ranging from period-style crescents, waterside flats to clifftop terraces and detached homes.

The south-west has been such a growth area for Hays Montrose that we will open a new office in Taunton this summer, concentrating on Somerset and North Devon. The office will be involved with projects such as Alfred McAlpine's £16m magistrate's court awaiting detailed planning permission in Exeter, the £10m student housing at the University of Exeter through HBG contractors and the £150m meteorological office being built in Exeter.