Our regional series continues as Robert Smith of recruitment consultant Hays Montrose checks out job prospects in and around the M3/M4 corridor
Over the past few years, housebuilding and refurbishment have dominated the construction market in the M3/M4 corridor. Major housing projects are under way in the public and private sector, leading to an increased need for skilled individuals in the region. Those in the highest demand are project surveyors, quantity surveyors and site managers with residential property experience at an intermediate to senior level.

Keith Winter, a manager at Hays Montrose, recently filled a senior site manager vacancy on a £30m PFI scheme in Reading. The client required an individual with experience of working in occupied properties and offered a £38,000 salary with benefits that included a £4600 car allowance, pension and company health scheme. Winter says it did not take long to fill the position, although the successful candidate did relocate from Liverpool. "Unfortunately there are not many local people with the right experience for these roles. Traditional surveying and estimating roles can also prove difficult to fill locally. The internet is a great help and we have just found two candidates for the PFI scheme through our website – they are relocating from the North-west," says Winter.

There is also an increasing shortage of contract managers and estimators, again with intermediate-to-senior-level experience. In Southampton, consultants recruiting for the M3/M4 corridor region have found permanent placements just as popular as temps, despite the fact that temps are in higher demand than permanent workers elsewhere in the UK. The market is driven by applicants in every discipline.

The general skills shortages in construction does not seem to apply to buyers, many of whom are looking for work in Hampshire. The trend is here is for construction companies to cover the traditional buyer role by employing a quantity surveyor with subcontract procurement skills.

And this multitasking is not an isolated case. Victoria Ball, Hays Montrose's Reading consultant, says she has had clients looking for site managers with multidisciplined backgrounds – people with a hands-on trades background who are able to do a tradesperson's job as well if required. "Basically, they want good all-rounders who have more than just supervisory skills. This is due to the shortage of good tradespeople all over the industry," says Ball.

Kate Tucker, a consultant at Hays Montrose, says the M3/M4 corridor region is also experiencing an influx of utilities developments, with many civil engineering companies tendering for three- to four-year contracts with public and private organisations such as Severn Trent, Southern and Thames Water. "It always used to be the larger contractors who were based elsewhere that dominated the regional utilities market," Tucker says, "but now smaller companies are benefiting from securing long-term framework agreements with the likes of Southern and Severn Trent Water and the Environment Commission. They're all looking for professionals with water industry backgrounds."

Salary figures for the corridor have risen overall in the past few years, although they are still short of what people earn in London. However, the lower costs of living in the region mean that wages are relatively high compared with other parts of the UK. With salaries on the rise for juniors in all areas of the industry in the region (taken from the results of the Hays Montrose/Building Contractor's salary guide for 2003/04), the future also looks bright for recent graduates hoping to work there.