Sean McVittie, regional manager of Hays Montrose, says there will continue to be an increase in the jobs registered in the North-east over the next two to three years. The main reasons for this rise in the demand for labour are an increase in the number of PFI schemes for schools and hospitals, the modernisation of council houses, and leisure projects such as art centres, restaurants and bars in city centres.
Opportunities for site managers and engineers have arisen for the £250m James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough, and the town-centre redevelopment requires hands for everything from repaving streets to installing pedestrian crossings. In the wider Teesside area, vacancies are being created by shopping centres, housing developments and pub and shop refurbishments.
There is strong growth in Newcastle as a result of investments in leisure and commercial regeneration as part of its attempt to become a European city of culture in 2008. City-centre developments are creating about 1000 jobs, from tradesmen to site managers and architects. More specifically, labour demand is being created by the regeneration of the city centre and surrounding areas, such as Gateshead Quay. A second factor is the city's residential property boom; notable projects are Great Park, Fifty Four Degrees North and St Anne's Quay.
Sunderland council's large-scale voluntary housing stock transfer was one of the single largest in the country. It created refurbishment and tenant liaison work across the board, with a particular demand for trades and labourers. Skills shortages are evident at all levels of trades and construction professionals, especially for graduate and intermediate quantity surveyors.
A good site manager, engineer or QS can virtually be guaranteed a job, assuming that they have the right kind of experience. Clients are generally requesting candidates who have worked on new-build or refurbishment projects, whether in the commercial, retail or light industrial sectors. A candidate with as little as six months experience in one of these areas is highly employable.
However, candidates who want to take advantage of their employability may face problems finding accommodation, especially if they want to buy. Newcastle and Durham are showing huge price rises, especially for one- and two-bedroom properties. For affordable prices, you have to look outside the cities. Three to five years ago, the North-east's pay scales were lower than the rest of the UK; now they are among the highest. For example in 1997, a site manager would have typically earned £20-23,000. Today, the same candidate could expect to make £27-34,000.