Continuing our regional series, Robert Smith of recruitment consultant Hays Montrose turns the spotlight on the job market in the Midlands
In the last three to four years, the Midlands' construction job market has strengthened. Although it has cooled slightly this year, reflected by a small decrease in the number of vacancies registered, workloads are still strong and hotspots have emerged in Birmingham, Nottingham and Derby.

Perhaps the foremost of these areas is Nottingham, which is set to become a major hotspot in the near future, with developments currently including a tram system and the refurbishment and rebuilding of office bocks into executive apartments. It is the major developments in the pipeline that will generate the most heat, including the redevelopment of Broadmarsh shopping centre, which is set to create 4200 construction jobs, and is due to commence in late 2003, running until 2008.

With the exception of industrial projects, all sectors have been busy and there are plenty of new projects in the pipeline. The major sectors of activity are:

  • Retail, such as supermarket developments
  • Major infrastructure schemes, such as the Nottingham Express Transit scheme, Masshouse Circus and the Birmingham northern relief road
  • Hospital projects, such as the Coventry PFI scheme and Highcroft hospital in Birmingham
  • City-centre redevelopment projects, such as the refurbishment of the Mander Centre in Wolverhampton, the redevelopment of Birmingham's Bull Ring and the construction of the Mailbox, also in Birmingham.

There are still a number of major schemes due to begin that should maintain buoyant work levels over the coming years. These include Birmingham's central library, further redevelopment in the Digbeth area of Birmingham and the Urban Box project – a mixed development of housing, shopping, hotels and leisure on the old Fort Dunlop site.

Although we expect certain sectors to slow down, such as leisure, we anticipate this will be offset by a lift in sectors such as housing. With high workloads set to remain, many companies are experiencing difficulties in attracting the right staff. The major skills shortages are project quantity surveyors, project/site managers, permanent engineers and bricklayers.

Future developments, such as the Broadmarsh shopping centre, will almost certainly increase salaries as good applicants become sought-after and realise how valuable a commodity they are. Salaries have already been rising sharply although this growth is starting to slow down as employers become more cautious about paying "silly money" to attract the right people.

Salaries across the Midlands show some regional differences with premium remuneration levels in central Birmingham and Northampton, where employers have to compete against candidates being drawn to London and Milton Keynes.

Although there were some redundancies at the end of 2001 (post-11 September), companies are now keen to retain staff, and anybody with a good background is likely to be snapped up quickly. This also applies to anyone looking to relocate to the Midlands from other areas.