With big schemes on site
The North-West is undergoing an exciting renewal of its main retail and residential areas at the moment. At the forefront of this are luxury refurbishment schemes in Manchester and Liverpool. Scott Flournoy, of Hays Montrose Manchester, says: "Manchester is one huge building site at the moment. Housebuilders Bellway Homes and Laing O'Rourke have announced joint redevelopment projects around the city and in Liverpool, and Carillion is currently building a number of luxury apartment sites worth anything up to £20m for each project."

AWG Construction has landed the massive Manchester airport project, and is interviewing potential partners, such as construction group Laing O'Rourke. The project will begin this summer and professionals are in high demand across the board.

In central Manchester, Sir Robert McAlpine has a £30m office development project under way. Carillion and developer The Beetham Organisation are also due to start on the £52m Hilton Tower project. The luxury hotel chain will erect the 48-storey tower in Deansgate, central Manchester, over the next few years.

Another huge challenge is the regeneration of Liverpool's Paradise Street. Incorporating retail, residential and office developments, this is set to overhaul the image of central Liverpool. There are also major renewals under way in the city's docklands, with plans to build a football stadium as well as retail outlets and luxury residential developments. The Fourth Grace project, a mixed-use centre on Liverpool's waterfront, will be worth £150m to the contract winners.

Dominating social housing development is a project in south-east Manchester, run by MJ Gleeson and worth £11m. Support service specialist Connaught and contractors Bullock Construction, Bramall Construction, and Wates also all have partnerships run by housing associations in Bolton, Oldham and Liverpool.

Companies are recruiting quite heavily across the board in the North-west. Quantity surveyors are in high demand from assistant to commercial manager level. Site managers and contract managers are reaping the benefits of increased development, and engineers and chartered building surveyors are also in high demand. Salaries for all these roles are increasing. Because of the sizes of the contracts involved, bigger companies such as Laing O'Rourke and AWG are looking for people with major project experience in all roles.

Flournoy says the biggest problem is convincing people to take up positions without offering a significant increase in their salary. "The market is top-heavy with 40-to-50-year-olds, and we aren't getting nearly enough younger people coming through, or enough mid-career movement. There are lots of younger graduates, but they don't really have the experience to take on our clients' projects. In some cases, companies will take on younger people and train them up, but many refuse outright to take on graduates."

The trend in packages for the North-west points towards an increase above the annual rate of inflation. This typically involves a health scheme, company car and a contributory pension, in addition to a project or company performance-related bonus worth anything up to 10% of the annual salary. With salaries on the rise and many projects beginning this summer, the shortage of construction professionals looks set to continue in the North-west.