Top executives in regeneration say finding the right staff is the biggest challenge facing the industry, according to the first Working in Regeneration survey, published in the latest issue of Regenerate.

The study, which was carried out by recruitment consultancy PSD Group and Regenerate, asked chief executives working at housebuilders, housing associations, local authorities and quangos such as regional development agencies, for their views on working in the industry. The search for skilled staff emerged as the biggest cause for concern, a long way ahead of issues such as planning and bureaucracy.

Tony O’Neill, managing consultant in residential development and regeneration with PSD Group, said: “It is a candidate-driven market, and the financial muscle of the private sector gives it the means to attract people.”

In a salary study, based on information from the survey and data from PSD Group, it was found that staff working in private sector development earned about 40% more than their counterparts in other sectors. The bulk of that is made up of bonuses (see chart).

Respondents to the Working in Regeneration survey admitted that they were worried at the impact of private sector pay on turnover at their own places of work.

Nonetheless, PSD Group said its candidates were increasingly attracted to working in the housing association sector, in particular. O’Neill said: “Good people are enthused at the prospect of being part of a growth industry.”

The financial muscle of the private sector gives it the means to attract people

Tony O’Neill, managing consultant, PSD

When asked to identify where the skills gaps were, survey respondents highlighted experience and commercial nous. Staff with cross-sector skills and experience were particularly valued, but in short supply.

O’Neill said: “Very few public sector people have private sector housing experience, and it is unlikely that this will change as local authorities are not in a position to compete on salary.”

Personnel working in London and the South-east emerged as the best paid across the country. Private sector salary levels are also high in the North-west, reflecting the demand for skills and experience to work with the region’s planning moratorium.